HEADLINES:

Russian police detain more than 400 at protest over journalist

Law enforcement officers detain a participant of a rally in support of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was detained by police, accused of drug offences and later freed from house arrest, in Moscow, Russia June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
2019-06-12

778 View

+ -

SULAIMANI – Russian police detained more than 400 people, including opposition politician Alexei Navalny, at a protest in Moscow on Wednesday calling for punishment for police officers involved in the alleged framing of a journalist.

Police abruptly dropped drug charges a day earlier against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, a rare U-turn by the authorities in the face of anger from his supporters who said he was targeted over his reporting.

Golunov, 36, known for exposing corruption among Moscow city officials, was detained by police last Thursday and accused of dealing drugs, an allegation he denied.

Some of the protesters wore white T-shirts saying “I am/We are Ivan Golunov,” the same slogan as a front page headline carried by Russia’s three leading daily newspapers on Monday.

In an unexpected twist, a young woman wearing such a T-shirt managed to get a front-row seat at a ceremony in the Kremlin at which President Vladimir Putin was handing out state awards, official footage of the event showed. The ceremony was taking place at the same time as the protest in the city.

OVD-Info, a monitoring group, said police had detained over 400 people. It said police had started to release some of them without charge while drawing up charges against others.

Police said earlier they had detained over 200 people.

Some of the protesters wore white T-shirts saying “I am/We are Ivan Golunov,” the same slogan as a front page headline carried by Russia’s three leading daily newspapers on Monday.

In an unexpected twist, a young woman wearing such a T-shirt managed to get a front-row seat at a ceremony in the Kremlin at which President Vladimir Putin was handing out state awards, official footage of the event showed. The ceremony was taking place at the same time as the protest in the city.

OVD-Info, a monitoring group, said police had detained over 400 people. It said police had started to release some of them without charge while drawing up charges against others.

Police said earlier they had detained over 200 people.

Many of the marchers and those forcefully detained by riot police were prominent Russian journalists and activists.

“We came to show the authorities that we have consolidated, that we are united,” said Vsevolod, 24. “We demand that hundreds of thousands of (criminal) cases where people are sitting in prison unfairly now be reviewed.”

The authorities had warned protesters that their demonstration would be illegal and could threaten public safety.

Under Russian law, the time and place of protests involving more than one person needs to be agreed with the authorities in advance. Organizers of Wednesday’s event had demanded that Moscow city officials negotiate those terms with them live on air during a TV broadcast, a demand they said officials refused.

A Reuters witness saw at least three police officers bundle opposition politician Alexei Navalny into a truck.

Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoman, said on Twitter that Navalny was accused of breaking Russia’s protest laws, something he has been repeatedly found guilty of, and faced up to 30 days in jail.

Navalny, who said police had accused him of organizing the march, said on Twitter he had been glad to march “among honest people”.

One protester, Ivan, 28, explained why marchers had defied the police. “The freeing of Golunov was not a victory. It was a tactical move by the authorities to prevent disorder breaking out today. But we came here anyway.”

(NRT Digital Media/ Reuters)