Alexander Shpakov (centre), who was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison this week for violent conduct towards a police officer. Source: OVD-Info.
We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly.
This week, the second sentence was handed down in the 26 March case. Alexander Shpakov, a joiner from the Moscow satellite town of Lyubertsy, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being detained during Russia’s anti-corruption protests in March this year.
Shpakov is accused of violent conduct towards a police officer, although he himself was beaten during arrest, and the National Guard officer he allegedly hit asked for the defendant not to be sent to prison. Shpakov cares for his mother, who is disabled, and his daughter was paying university fees with help from her father. Shpakov’s family has complained that his state-appointed lawyer tried to extort money from them for any information about the defendant in prison.
Like other defendants in the 26 March case, police officers convinced Shpakov to agree to have his case heard in special procedures. This procedure means that there is no examination of material evidence or witness testimony in court, but the final sentence cannot exceed two thirds of the maximum permitted. Stanislav Zimovets, who also faces charges as part of the 26 March case in Moscow, previously agreed to a special procedure trial, but revoked permission on Tuesday.
This week, a new defendant appeared in the Moscow 26 March case, Dmitry Krepkin, who is accused of kicking a police officer in the leg during the protests. Krepkin was, however, detained later (on 14 May), and has been arrested until the middle of July. Krepkin claims that he did not kick the police officer in the leg, but the police officer’s baton. You can find out more about Krepkin’s case here.
Dmitry Krepkin is the latest defendant in the Russian authorities' investigation into violence during anti-corruption protests in Moscow in March. Source: OVD-Info. As we’ve reported earlier, criminal cases have been opened into the 26 March events outside of Moscow. In Volgograd this week, a court gave student Maxim Beldinov an 18 month suspended sentence. Beldinov, like the defendants in Moscow, has been charged with violent conduct towards a police officer. He submitted a written confession.
Elsewhere, Russia’s truckers continue to strike against Platon, the government-backed electronic toll system. In Khimki, outside of Moscow, 12 truck drivers were detained on Sunday and fined 104,000 roubles (£1,4500). And on Friday, National Guard troops armed with automatic rifles detained 23 truck drivers 50km outside of Moscow, dragging several of them from their trucks. During the detention, police officers removed truckers’ placards and hung them on their vehicles, thus fabricating an unsanctioned demonstration for the camera. Two of the detainees were women (one of them - pregnant), and they were kept in the local police station for more than 24 hours without being charged. After an intervention by rights defenders, the women were released with an obligation to appear before a judge at a later date.
Finally, tragic news from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Dmitry Popkov, editor-in-chief of Ton-M, a local opposition newspaper known for its corruption investigations, was found shot dead on Thursday. Popkov’s body was found in a banya at a private residence.
According to the regional Investigative Committee, the motive behind the killing could be Popkov’s professional activity. As his paper wrote in 2016: “Our newspaper has long been used to the fact that many public officials see us as a threat, and they use all sorts of methods to shut us up. So far, no one has succeeded, including our beloved city prosecutor. We don’t care about the threats we get via telephone, the searches and interrogations designed to scare us.”
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For more information on OVD-Info, read this article from the organisation's founder on how OVD is breaking the civil society mould here.