Mikhail Tsakunov has been charged with committing an offence under Article 318, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (using violence, dangerous for life or health, against a public official).
He has been held on remand since 5 May 2018. The official investigation alleges Tsakunov struck a police officer at the time of his arrest at the «He’s Not Our Tsar» rally protesting the inauguration of Vladimir Putin organised by supporters of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in downtown St. Petersburg.
The video of his arrest shows the police officers made no demands of Tsakunov or those he was with but attacked the young people who were standing peacefully and not chanting any slogans, pushing them to the ground and arresting them. This contradicts the statements of the prosecution that Tsakunov allegedly refused to carry out certain «lawful demands» of the police officers and casts doubt on the officers’ testimony. The assertion that Tsakunov in some way or other damaged the tooth of a police officer seems just as dubious, because as the video shows the officers arresting him were wearing helmets. Tsakunov at the time of his arrest behaved calmly and did not use physical force against the arresting officers, who subsequently carried him.
Tsakunov asserts that not only did he not strike the police officer in the face, but he did not even take part in the rally. He happened to be at the rally location only because he had wanted to return to participants in the Vesna movement a large inflatable rubber duck (a symbol of the anti-corruption rallies used by opposition activists after the publication of Navalny’s investigation into Dmitry Medvedev, in which one of the prime minister’s residences featured a small house for ducks). Police officers had taken the duck from the activists and thrown it in a rubbish dump. In our view, it is not important whether Tsakunov was a participant in the rally or an accidental passerby, since in any case it does not justify the brutality of the police officers who arrested and beat the young people who were a threat to nobody.
Amnesty International has recognised Tsakunov as a prisoner of conscience and announced an international campaign in his support. Memorial Human Rights Centre supports the view our colleagues in the human rights movement. We believe Mikhail Tsakunov is a political prisoner and call for his immediate release.
We demand that officials guilty of violating the rights and freedoms of participants in the rallies and of accidental passersby, who were unlawfully detained and subjected to physical violence on 5 May 2018, be brought to justice.
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.
For more information about this case, see here.
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