Krasnoyarsk resident who mistakenly pepper-sprayed FSB officers is a political prisoner

17.03.2021

Artyom Zagrebelny was sentenced to five years in prison for violence against law enforcement officers who attacked him in the lift of the apartment building where he lived without showing their ID

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, considers Artyom Zagrebelny from Krasnoyarsk a political prisoner. We believe he committed no crime and has been prosecuted for political reasons in violation of the right to a fair trial.

The criminal case against Zagrebelny was fabricated by those in authority in order to strengthen their power. The harsh verdict handed down in the case is intended not to deliver justice but to send a message to society that law enforcement agents, particularly FSB officers, are untouchable.

We demand the immediate release of Artyom Zagrebelny from custody and that his sentence be reviewed.

Who is Artyom Zagrebelny and what happened to him?

On 7 November 2019, 27-year-old Artyom Zagrebelny was detained by FSB officers in the entrance hall of the apartment building where he lived. That day three plain-clothes FSB officers attempted to detain him as part of an investigation and with a view to searching Zagrebelny’s apartment. Zagrebelny resisted and sprayed pepper spray in their direction. The spray got into the eyes of two of the law enforcement officers. After a brief struggle between Zagrebelny and the FSB officers, officers from a Special Rapid Response Unit [SOBR] ran into the entrance hall and finally detained Zagrebelny.

According to the investigation, Artyom Zagrebelny used violence against the two FSB officers. Zagrebelny allegedly knew he was confronted by FSB officers who were on duty and deliberately pepper-sprayed them ‘being dissatisfied that he was being detained and wishing to flee.’

The two officers testified in court that they told Zagrebelny they were from the FSB and one of them showed his official ID. Based on the conclusions of forensic expertise, the court concluded Zagrebelny had used violence dangerous to the health of the security officers.

According to Zagrebelny, the FSB officers did not identify themselves or show any ID, but simply forced him out of the lift, after which he used pepper spray against them. Zagrebelny claims he did not know they were law enforcement officers. As soon as one of the officers shouted he was from the FSB, Zagrebelny immediately stopped resisting.

On 22 October 2020 Sverdlovsk district court in Krasnoyarsk sentenced Artyom Zagrebelny to five years in prison on charges of using violence dangerous to life or health against a public official (Article 318, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). He is currently in pre-trial detention awaiting appeal proceedings.

Why has Memorial recognised Zagrebelny as a political prisoner?

On the basis of the materials of the case we have concluded that Artyom Zagrebelny used pepper spray on his attackers without exceeding the limits of reasonable self-defence. It was not obvious to him that the men belonged to law enforcement agencies or that their actions were lawful.

CCTV footage from the entrance hall and the lift in Zagrebelny’s apartment building confirms his version. The footage clearly shows that none of the officers showed any ID.

There are also doubts about the alleged injuries suffered by the law enforcement officers. Examinations carried out the day after the incident found no evidence of any injury. The victims’ injuries were established only in the course of subsequent examinations carried out three weeks later.

Moreover, it is also important to take into account the context of Zagrebelny’s case. The day Zagrebelny was detained, FSB officers went to his home on the minor matter of checking his correspondence on the VKontakte social media site for extremism. No criminal case was opened regarding the correspondence.

Once in detention, Zagrebelny and his girlfriend were subjected to extreme intimidation. In particular, he was forced to write a confession immediately following his arrest under threat that his girlfriend would be raped. Zagrebelny withdrew the testimony only after he contracted an independent lawyer to work on the case.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

More information about this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on our website.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected]

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Загребельный Артём Андреевич родился 6 ноября 1993 года, имеет среднее образование, женат, работал разнорабочим в туберкулёзном диспансере, до задержания жил в Красноярске.

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