Lawful violence Top Moscow police official maintains that no undue force was used against pro-Navalny protesters
During a city council session on Wednesday, one of Moscow’s top police officials insisted that law enforcement officers didn’t use any excessive force against pro-Navalny protesters in January and February. He also rejected reports that a number of journalists were injured by police while covering the demonstrations. That same day, the State Duma’s information policy committee held a meeting on ensuring journalists’ safety amid mass events, during which a top official from the Russian National Guard suggested that the authorities start vetting journalists in advance to determine who’s allowed to cover protests.
Moscow police used force in accordance with the law when dispersing the protesters at the rallies in support of jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny in January and February, declared Oleg Baranov, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s main directorate in Moscow, during a city council session on Wednesday, March 10.
“The Moscow police acted in accordance with the current law on the Russian police. The police officers used physical force, sambo [martial arts] techniques, and special devices, which we’re also allowed to use when needed to prevent transgressions and crimes,” he said.
Baranov also maintained that “no injuries were found in any of the cases” involving police actions against journalists covering the rallies. This runs contrary to the experiences of the dozens of journalists detained amid the demonstrations; many were in fact injured, including Meduza’s own correspondent Kristina Safonova. During the rally on Moscow’s Pushkin Square on January 23, a riot police officer struck Safonova with a truncheon, despite the fact that she was wearing a “Press” vest.
Journalists recorded widespread evidence of police violence against protesters during the pro-Navalny demonstrations, including instances of officers employing “martial arts techniques” and “special devices” like tasers, as well as targeting media workers.
Addressing the State Duma’s information policy committee on Wednesday during a meeting dedicated to ensuring the safety of journalists covering mass events, Deputy National Guard Chief Oleg Plokhoy suggested that the press pool set to report on demonstrations be established in advance.
Plokhoy added that the National Guard (whose officers were also deployed to disperse Navalny’s supporters in January and February) “would like” for journalists to stand together in compact groups in predetermined places during rallies. He also called for the introduction of coordinators to work on behalf of law enforcement agencies to determine which journalists can and cannot cover protest events, TASS reported.
As previously reported by Meduza, internal statistics from the FSB have revealed that the number protesters and detentions at the pro-Navalny rallies in January were greater than estimates from both the Russian authorities and independent monitors. According to the FSB, a total of 90,000 people took part in the countrywide demonstrations and law enforcement officers detained approximately 12,000 individuals, including 761 minors.
Translated and updated by Eilish Hart