The Cossacks who beat up Navalny and his colleagues say they started it

11:40, 17 may 2016

The Cossack group that attacked an entourage led by anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny earlier today says its actions were “in response” to behavior by Navalny and his colleagues. Dmitry Slaboda, a member of the Cossack group who filmed the incident on his camera, told the radio station Govorit Moskva that one of the people in Navalny's group instigated the fight.

“In the first video, at about 32 or 33 seconds in, you can see a guy in a red shirt elbow an elderly Cossack. The old man falls, breaking his nose, and that's when the younger Cossacks start standing up for him. Nobody planned to attack. They wanted to pour milk on [Navalny and his colleagues], and that's what they did at first, and then they were just going to get in his face. But because of the attack [on the old man], a fight broke out,” Slaboda explained.

Navalny is led from Anapa with milk.
Dmitry Slaboda

According to Slaboda, the local men who took part in the brawl were from the Anapa Regional Cossack Society. The duty officer for this Cossack society, Ivan Petrov, told Govorit Moskva that “no Cossacks from our organization were present [at the Anapa airport today]," where the fight took place.

Slaboda noted that the activists used milk because it's easier to wash off. “We just wanted to show that Navalny, who lives off the Americans' money, isn't welcome here. That's precisely why we threw milk at him. It wasn't anything so bad. It wasn't paint, or something that takes a long time to clean off,” Slaboda said.

Govorit Moskva
On May 17, Navalny and colleagues from the Anti-Corruption Foundation were attacked at the Anapa airport, on the Black Sea coast. During the attack, one of Navalny's colleagues, Artem Torchinsky, was hit in the head and fell to the ground. He's now been hospitalized. Navalny's spokesperson counted 20 attackers, and Navalny himself guessed at least 40 men took part in the assault. He also accused the police of assisting the Cossacks.