Memorial Human Rights Centre, on the basis of the international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has recognised Pavel Ustinov as a political prisoner. We demand Ustinov be released immediately and those guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of participants in the public events of July and August 2019, who were unlawfully detained and assaulted (and include accidental passers-by), be brought to justice.
- On 3 August 2019 in Moscow a protest was held calling for independent candidates to be registered in the Moscow city assembly elections and protesting against the mass detentions, beatings and jailing on remand of those who took part in the protest of 27 July 2019 (classified without justification as ‘riots’). Despite the peaceful nature of the protest on 3 August 2019, that took the form of a walk around Moscow’s Boulevard Ring, the police and National Guard, as had happened the previous week, carried out mass detentions of both participants and chance passers-by. Of 1001 people arrested that day a significant number were accidental passers-by who had taken no part in the protest. One of those detained was actor Pavel Ustinov who, judging by the information we have obtained, took no part in the protest but had been quietly waiting for a friend at the entrance to the Pushkinskaya metro station. At about 15:30 Ustinov was roughly detained by riot police officers on duty at Pushkin Square, one of whom, according to media reports, dislocated his left shoulder during the arrest.
- Investigators in the case allege that Ustinov actively resisted the riot police officers and intentionally used force against riot police officer A. S. Lyagin that was dangerous to the officer’s life and health, resulting in a dislocation of his left shoulder. Memorial Human Rights Centre, however, having analyzed the video posted by Ustinov’s sister, has concluded that Ustinov is completely innocent. There is no evidence in Ustinov’s actions, as seen in the video, of the crime of an intentional act of violence against a representative of public authority. It is easy to see that Ustinov’s actions were reflex actions and were in no way aggressive, while the riot officers detaining him used force and non-lethal weapons excessive in the given situation.
- In the remand court hearing the defendant himself stated: ‘I physically could not cause harm to a person three times stronger than me. I did not take part in the protest rally and had no intention to cause harm. I was standing out of the way, in one hand I had a telephone, in the other headphones, they twisted my arms behind my back and began to beat me with non-lethal weapons, I did not resist once.’ Ustinov did his military service in the National Guard and on more than one occasion performed security duties at public events, including the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches, and clearly had no reason to cause physical harm to former fellow-officers. Nonetheless, on 5 August 2019 Ustinov was remanded in custody by decision of Judge M. V. Sizintseva sitting in Moscow’s Tver district court. The prosecution was represented by Prosecutor E. A. Serditova.
- The political nature of Ustinov’s prosecution was already evident in motions introduced at the court hearing by Investigator Zavarzin when he asked Tver district court to remand Ustinov in custody, asserting without any evidence that Ustinov allegedly had been ‘an active participant in illegal protests in Moscow city.’ The political motivation for the criminal case is also to be seen in the context of a sharp increase in repressive measures against those taking part in peaceful demonstrations and rallies, and also against people who accidentally happen to be in locations where large numbers of arrests are being made (very often, the whole of downtown Moscow on such occasions). The mass arrests that took place on 3 August 2019 throughout downtown Moscow were arbitrary and accompanied by crude violations of human rights. There was no justification for them in terms of public security. The approximate scale of police ‘errors’ is indicated by the fact that, according to prosecutors who investigated the matter at the request of the Moscow Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, Evgeny Bunimovich, 37 of the 76 detained for taking part in the protest on 27 July 2019, in other words almost half, were minors who had taken no part in the protests.
- Most flagrant is the manner in which the investigation based its position on the evidence of riot police officers A. R. Savchenko and K. A. Astashev that is identical word for word. In our opinion, this evidence must be ruled impermissible by the court, and the circumstances of their ‘questioning’ must be investigated for a possible offence under Article 303, Section 2, of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (‘Falsification of evidence in a criminal case by a person conducting an interrogation, an investigator, a prosecutor, or a lawyer for the defence’). It is obvious that such a 100% textual coincidence in the testimonies means the interrogation was either not actually conducted at all or the ‘witnesses’ read out reports that had been prepared earlier, drawn up on the orders of a senior officer (as happens in the preparation of cases against those accused of violating the norms of the Code of Administrative Law of the Russian Federation at demonstrations). It is indicative that the interrogations of Savchenko (19 minutes) and Astashev (20 minutes) took virtually equal amounts of time.
- Memorial has in its possession copies of the official stenographic reports of the interrogations of riot police officers Savchenko and Astashev and considers their publication necessary, with the exception of all personal data.
You can read more about this case here.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.
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