An investigation has been opened by Russia’s interior ministry after a video went viral showing a riot police officer punching a woman in the stomach during a protest for free elections. The video showed a young woman dragged by two masked policemen in riot gear, with one of them punching her in the stomach so he can reach down to pick up a baton. The images provoked outrage in the media and on social networks.
A decision to block opposition candidates from running for election to Moscow’s city parliament has prompted a wave of protests which are among the largest since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012. In an interview to the Mediazona website, the 26-year-old woman Daria Sosnovskaya said that she was dragged away by police for protesting against the detention of a man with a disability.
She said, “Police officers started running towards me. It was extremely unpleasant. I immediately had cramps everywhere, I couldn’t breathe.” She further added that she was then taken with other detainees to a police station, where she was held without access to a lawyer for several hours before being released with a warning. She has since filed a complaint about the manner in which she was detained. Several Russians hurt by police at the protests are seeking redress through the courts.
The interior ministry said on Monday that it had opened an internal enquiry into the case, promising that “those who are guilty will have to face responsibility”. The statistician was one of over 200 people detained in central Moscow on Saturday for taking part in what authorities said was an illegal protest following a sanctioned demonstration to demand free elections in the city legislature.
Moscow has been rocked by rallies, some unsanctioned, for the past month, with the largest being on Saturday drawing up to 60,000 people. On Saturday, Police detained 136 people at a protest in Moscow that was authorised by city hall, with most taken into custody after they headed towards the presidential administration offices. Earlier, a protest on 27 July resulted in nearly 1,400 arrests. Meanwhile, activists said that they are planning to hold another protest on August 17, 2019.