News / Europe

Eight Russians Convicted of Attacking Police

Defendants stand in courtroom cage, Moscow, Feb. 21, 2014.
Defendants stand in courtroom cage, Moscow, Feb. 21, 2014.
A Russian judge on Friday convicted eight defendants of rioting and assaulting police at a protest against Vladimir Putin, in what one of his leading critics called a "show trial" designed to make clear the president would tolerate no dissent.

In a show of force outside the courthouse, police pushed into a crowd of hundreds that had gathered to support the defendants, grabbing people one by one and hauling them away.

Moscow police said they detained about 200 people for attempting to violate public order.

The convictions, which activists had anticipated, coincided with political turmoil in neighboring Ukraine, where dozens have died in violence the Kremlin blames on militant government opponents it accuses the West of encouraging.

The defendants — seven men and a woman mostly in their 20s — were found guilty of rioting and violence against police at an opposition protest on May 6, 2012, the eve of Putin's inauguration for a third presidential term.

Putin's opponents blame the police for clashes at that rally on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square — one of a series of protests that were the most concerted during his long rule but failed to prevent his return to the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.

They say it was part of a fresh clampdown on dissent by Putin, first elected in 2000, that has included restrictive laws, accusations of Western meddling and the jailing of critics such as members of Pussy Riot.

Putin has denied he uses the courts as a political tool, and has said violence against police must not go unpunished.

Two women from the protest band were in the crowd outside the court, as was Alexei Navalny, who emerged from the wave of protests as the top opposition leader and is serving a five-year suspended sentence after a theft trial last year he said was Kremlin revenge.

All eight defendants pleaded not guilty. By law, each could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison, but prosecutors asked the judge to hand down sentences of five to six years.

Sentencing after Sochi

After starting the hearing more than three hours behind schedule, judge Natalya Nikishina abruptly ended it late in the afternoon and said she would pronounce the sentences on Monday.

That means they will be passed after Sunday's close of the Sochi Winter Olympics — a prestige project for Putin, who has faced criticism from the West for his treatment of dissent in his third presidential term.

Shouts from the street of "Shame!" and "Free them!" drifted into the cramped fourth-floor courtroom where the male defendants, who have been in custody since 2012, stood handcuffed in a metal cage as Nikishina read out the verdict.

Some ignored the judge, exchanging glances with their wives and girlfriends instead.

Repeating parts of the indictment word-for-word, Nikishina detailed how each defendant had attacked police.

She said Alexandra Naumova, 20, who is under house arrest pending sentencing and stood holding hands with her husband in the courtroom, had thrown stones, bottles and chunks of asphalt at police at the protest.

The judge said she threw eight objects at police. Her lawyer, Dmitry Dubrovin, said after the hearing there was only one instance in which she may have done so and that had not been proven in court.

Nobody was killed at the 2012 protest and the defendants are not charged with endangering the lives or health of police. One was accused of hitting an officer with an "unidentified hard, yellow object" that his lawyers say was a lemon.

Tale of two cities

Before the Olympics, Putin engineered the release of two women from Pussy Riot and of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was widely seen as a political prisoner during more than 10 years in jail.

But relatives of the defendants in the "Bolotnaya Case" fear they will not walk free on Monday.

They worry that following the turmoil in Kiev, which has killed at least 77 people since Tuesday and blanketed Russian TV screens, the Kremlin wants to send a firm signal that street violence will not be tolerated in Russia.

"It looks like we are being punished for the Maidan," said Dmitry Agronovsky, a lawyer for one of the defendants, referring to the square in the Ukrainian capital where protesters have made a stand against the Russian-backed president for two months.

"Almost no one doubts that the verdict will be vindictive and cruel," Khodorkovsky, who was flown out of Russia on the day of his release in December, said in a statement on Thursday.

He said the defendants were victims of a "show trial."

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dr. Marina from: Finland
February 21, 2014 4:45 PM
hey America, by now, you should have understood that the "Leaders of the opposition" as they call these dumb idiots (which are Fascist organizations just like Al Qaida, Hamas, Hizbullah or a Neo Nazi organizations) have absolutely no control over events in Ukraine.
But hey, America under the Kenyan defect stopped resembling AMERICA long time ago...
"yes we can..." LOL idiots!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs