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Russian human rights activists seek criminal case against police for violating coronavirus regulations

The Russian human rights organization “Public Verdict” has asked state investigators to launch a criminal case against police officials for violating sanitary and epidemiological rules (article 236 of the Criminal Code) while detaining protesters amid the pro-Navalny rallies on January 23 and 31. 

According to Public Verdict, police officers “created a real threat of mass illness” to protesters detained amid the countrywide demonstrations. In particular, the rights group recorded at least seven incidents where the conditions inside the police vans violated sanitary norms put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distance wasn’t maintained inside the police vans, no conditions were created for washing and disinfecting hands, the detainees weren’t given masks or gloves, and there was [no attempt] to identify individuals showing signs of infectious diseases among the detainees. Thus, the conditions of detention for the detainees grossly violated all regulations applicable to the given situation, which created a real threat of mass illness for the detainees.

Protesters are facing criminal prosecution for violating “sanitary rules.” While at the same time, government officials themselves grossly violate sanitary regulations. 

After the rallies in support of jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny on January 23 and 31, Russian law enforcement officials launched at least 40 criminal cases in connection with the protests, including on charges of hooliganism, violence against police officials, and violating sanitary and epidemiological rules. 

In addition, several of Navalny’s supporters were placed under house arrest as suspects in a criminal case launched over alleged violations of sanitary rules, including his brother Oleg Navalny, Anti-Corruption Foundation employee Lyubov Sobol, Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, Team Navalny’s Moscow coordinator Oleg Stepanov, Doctors’ Alliance director Anastasia Vasilieva, and Pussy Riot activist Maria Alyokhina. 

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