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Russian Police Routinely Ignore Pro-Kremlin Violence

Photographer in Saint Petersburg Attacked by Nationalist Group, Abused by Police

Sunday’s demonstrations in Russia have dominated headlines, but it wasn’t only people protesting corruption who took to the streets. Pro-Kremlin nationalist groups – such as the National Liberation Movement (NLM) – also made their voices heard.

 Signs of pro-Kremlin nationalist groups at a demonstration in St. Petersburg, Russia, December 11, 2016.  © David Frenkel

This time, on at least one occassion, the protesters peacefully exchanged views. But sometimes encounters between pro-Kremlin groups and people they disagree with end in scuffles and violence, with the authorities siding with the Kremlin supporters.

Just last week I spoke to freelance photographer David Frenkel about his fight for justice after an NLM member attacked him in December 2016. Afterwards, police treated him as the offender, which is often the case in these situations.

On the way back from an LGBT rally, David and rally participants crossed paths with an NLM picket, he said. The two groups argued, and an NLM member slapped David’s camera from his hand and kicked him several times. When the police arrived they asked to check David’s documents, ignoring his attacker. After an NLM member accused him of trying to thwart their rally, Frenkel was immediately taken to the police station.

At the police station, the situation went from bad to worse. As they questioned David, the police accused him of wrongdoing. The exchange heated up, and David asked why his attacker was not detained. Police then summoned a team of three doctors who attempted to force David out of view of the security camera to carry out a psychiatric evaluation. He resisted, and they twisted his fingers and tied his hands. The doctors made anti-Semitic comments – David is Jewish – and threatened to beat him. When they tried to take away his camera bag, David said they could only take it over his dead body – to which they replied “no problem.’ David left the police station after two-and-a-half hours with bruises on his neck and arms.

David’s attacker was eventually fined, but only after the incident received significant media attention. Now, David is fighting to hold police to account for his treatment at the station. He is appealing the refusal of the Federal Investigative Committee to open a criminal case against the police officers. If unsuccessful he is planning to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

I hope David does not have to take this step and he can find justice in Russia first. 

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