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.
Reuters
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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs