The OMON “Victim-Witnesses”

September 23, 2013

On May 6, 2012, a large anti-Putin protest, the “March of the Millions,” descended into chaos as it was broken up by police in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow. Since that time, Russian authorities have prosecuted 27 people, and some of the trials are still ongoing.

This past Sunday there was a benefit concert for the defendants, while the newest developments in the courtroom appear to be adding credence to the opposition’s claims that these trials are politically motivated. – Ed.

On Sunday, Moscow will host a rock concert in support of the defendants in the “Bolotnaya case”. At the trial of the “Bolotnaya people” police officers mostly complained about moral and physical harm inflicted upon them by unidentified demonstrators. Yesterday the course of the process was interrupted because of the tragedy in the family of one of the defendants: Andrei Barabanov’s grandmother died.

The situation in the Moscow City Court, where hearings on the “Bolotnaya case” have been going on for several months, is quite tense. The hearing was interrupted prematurely because Andrey Baranov’s attorney said that her client was very upset and could no longer participate in the hearing. So yesterday they managed to question only one person – a riot policeman Ivan Kruglov, who came to Bolotnaya Square, in his words, with co-workers in a “KamAZ” truck “to maintain order.” From his testimony it followed that demonstrators violated public order, and the police officer himself was knocked down. However, his testimony was not about the specific 12 defendants, because, as it turned out, he had nothing against them. Kruglov did not identify any of them. Falling on the ground did not result in any physical injuries, just stress. Judge Natalia Nikishina did not give the defense a chance to ask the victim a single question. The attorneys motioned to change Kruglov’s status from victim to witness, but the motion was denied.

On Wednesday, the court questioned the riot police (OMON) sergeant Alexei Troerin whose testimony the investigators tried to use against one of the defendants in the case – a former marine Dennis Lutskevich. Troerin managed to describe Lutskevich’s appearance only after May 22. During the first interrogation (of which “NG” has a scanned record) the police officer did not give description of any one of his attackers. In court Troerin said that Lutskevich, who at that moment was stripped to the waist, tried to “pull off his helmet,” but in the end someone else did it. To the question of whether the defendant had caused him physical harm, the police officer replied that he did not remember. Troerin was the one who suffered the most serious consequences among all the OMON personnel – after the clashes he spent a week in the hospital with a concussion, and later the authorities gave him an apartment in Moscow.

Observers point out that such evidence of police officers in court is perhaps the best evidence of the political nature of the charges. “Those who were questioned this week did not really identify anyone, they don’t make any claims and refuse to answer any specifying questions,” Vadim Kluvgant, an attorney, told “NG”. “Their testimony did not confirm any of the elements of a riot.” As the attorney further emphasized, it was obvious that for the riot policemen it was extremely uncomfortable and possibly even embarrassing to give such testimony in court. Some witnesses have been accused of perjury, when the media found them on the videos of the events on Bolotnaya square. One of them was Denis Moiseev, who had previously argued in court that on May 6, he was pushed by one of the defendants, Sergei Krivov, but he had neither detained anyone, nor participated in any violence.

The “Bolotnaya process” is gaining publicity. This Sunday at the “Mir” Concert Hall on Tsvetnoy Boulevard there will be a charity concert in support of the defendants in the case. It was announced yesterday that it will be hosted by a famous actor, Mikhail Yefremov, and DDT rock band frontman Yury Shevchuk had been added to the list of performers. Earlier it was confirmed that Euveni Havtan (“Bravo”), Andrey Makarevich, Noize MC, Kira Lao and others would participate. Video messages in support of the detained participants anti-Putin demonstration were posted by Diana Arbenina and Boris Grebenshikov. Money from ticket sales will cover the defense attorneys’ fees.