Russian courts sentence individuals for fulfilling their right to have an independent opposition in the Moscow city parliament (Mosgorduma), which will hold its elections on September 8. Those who took part in opposition meetings are now accused of mass riots. Media often refers to these cases as a single “Moscow case”.
On September 4, Kirill Zhukov was sentenced to three years in a penal colony. He touched a Russian guard’s helmet. Yevgenii Kovalenko, who threw ballot box at the police, was jailed for 3.5 years. Ivan Podkopaiev, in turn, was sent to prison for 3 years. He sprayed pepper gas on a police officer’s face, as well as carried a small hammer, gas mask and knife on him. At the same time, Danila Beglets allegedly grabbed an officer’s wrist, pulling it aside. He was sentenced to 2 years. Beglets, however, pleaded guilty and asked for a non-imprisonment punishment due to having two small children. Konstantin Kotov, who is accused of repeated violation of the rules on holding public events, was sentenced to 4 years of jail – under the Criminal Code article that was ruled unconstitutional even by the Russian Constitutional Court.
Protests in Moscow have been taking place since the middle of July. They are organized by the supporters of independent opposition candidates, who were rejected by the Central Election Commission. Technically, candidates have to gather Moscow citizens’ signatures to have ballot right. CEC, however, has invalidated signatures for opposition candidates as fake. Moreover, the city council did not give permits to hold opposition meetings. Over nearly 2 months of protests, the police has detained more than 2,000 demonstrators. Currently, there are more than 200 administrative proceedings in courts.
As lawyers and journalists often note, there is no evidence of guilt. Prosecutor and judge do not even know the names of police officers that are considered “victims”. The “victims” themselves admit that no pain was inflicted. The protestors, on the other hand, were severely beaten and detained – including women. The processes have also included numerous procedure violations. For instance, law enforcement officers blocked the floors and did not let journalists and relatives inside. Russian journalist Ilia Azar was detained at his apartment. A two-year-old child was left home alone, with the door wide open. Two families may be deprived of their parental rights due to visiting protests with their babies.
About 660 professors and students from Russia, UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy and other countries signed an open letter, appealing to stop the criminal prosecution of the "Moscow case" defendants.
According to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, “The young people have right for protests. It can either lead to bad or good things, as it shakes political power. The actions, however, must be confined to Russia’s legal frames.”