Russia to probe pro-democracy protesters
Russian investigators said they were launching an investigation into “mass unrest”, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison, following pro-democracy protests at the weekend.
Protesters were dragged away from the parliamentary buildings as the security forces used batons in what was one of the largest crackdowns in Russia in years.
“The investigation has established that ahead of an unsanctioned rally a group of people repeatedly posted on the internet calls to take part in it, knowing full well that these actions could provoke mass unrest”, the Investigative Committee said in Russian.
“The investigation has established that ahead of an unsanctioned rally, a group of people repeatedly posted on the internet calls to take part in it, knowing full well that these actions could provoke mass unrest,” the authorities said.
On Saturday, nearly 1,400 protesters were arrested at an unauthorised demonstration in Moscow against the exclusion of opposition politicians from a municipal election in September.
Photos showed several demonstrators bleeding, while at least two security staff reportedly received eye injuries from pepper spray.
Investigators said protesters violated public order, used violence against the authorities and “paralysed traffic” in central Moscow.
“Prosecutors should in a severe manner prevent the actions of organisers and participants in illegal and unsanctioned public rallies,” prosecutor Alexander Buksman, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
He also urged extra vigilance in the run-up to the September election.
Rupert Colville, a UN human rights spokesman, criticised the police crackdown and questioned the disqualification of 57 non-government candidates from the election.
“We are concerned that the Russian police appear to have used excessive force against the protesters,” Colville told the media.
“When managing crowds in Russia as anywhere else, use of force by the police should always be proportionate to the threat, if there is one, and should only be employed as a measure of last resort,” he said.
On the disqualification of candidates for alleged forgery of voters’ signatures, he said: “The issue is whether really all these 57 candidates should have been excluded, whether it was a cast-iron case that these signatures were forged.
“And the fact that they were all either opposition or independent candidates has fuelled the notion among the demonstrators, certainly, that something is not correct,” Colville said.
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