Russian human rights activists have demanded that Mayor Yury Luzhkov step down for regularly banning opposition rallies in the Moscow center, thus provoking clashes between protesters and police.
That followed Monday’s failed attempt to stage an unauthorized meeting in support of Article 31 of Russia’s Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. The gathering resulted in over a hundred people detained, reports of police brutality, and the activists’ call for a fair investigation.
"We demand the resignation of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, whose administration violates the Constitution by continually denying permission for undesirable mass rallies, thus provoking clashes, detentions, beatings and arrests," the statement reads, as quoted by Interfax agency.
The document was signed by Lyudmila Alekseeva of Moscow Helsinki Group and Lev Ponomaryov of “For Human Rights” on Tuesday. A day earlier, police dispersed an opposition rally – banned by city authorities – on Triumfalnaya square in the center of the capital. Over a hundred people of the roughly 450 who attempted to hold the so-called “Dissenters March” were detained. According to police, 150 citations for administrative offences were drawn up following which the majority of the detainees were released.
"We demand the immediate release of those detained on May 31, an end to their persecutions and an official apology to them,” the human rights activists said in the statement.
In addition, they insist that police chiefs should be prosecuted for allegedly forcing policemen to falsify reports and citations, Interfax writes.
”We demand that all police officers who used force when detaining [the protesters] face justice," the activists’ statement says.
According to Russia's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, law enforcement agencies were acting “extremely toughly and rudely” when breaking up the rally. Talking to journalists Tuesday, he said that he insists the Internal Affairs Ministry should thoroughly investigate the dissolution of the rally.
Meanwhile, Moscow City Duma Speaker Vladimir Platonov said that Luzhkov’s dismissal was not on the agenda on Tuesday, sz.aif.ru website reports.
An activist and a journalist for on-line newspaper gazeta.ru, Aleksandr Artemyev, was among the protesters and reportedly had his arm broken as police were dispersing the rally.
The Public Supervisory Board at the Moscow Police Authority will look into the incident next week, Mikhail Mikhailin, a Public Board member and the editor of the Gazeta.ru told Interfax.
"The Public Board of the [Moscow Police Authority] will convene in about a week’s time. It will discuss two issues, one of which is an incident in which blows were inflicted on the journalist Artemyev at the opposition rally," he said.
According to Mikhailin, the journalist was detained and taken to a police station, where he was beaten up by policemen. Artemyev was diagnosed with a “splintered fracture".
"He was on Triumfalnaya Square in his spare time, but that is no reason to break his arms," Mikhailin added.
Svetlana Mironyuk, the Editor-in-Chief for RIA Novosti news agency and the head Public Council of the Moscow City Police has called the incident “outrageous and unacceptable”.
“The issue will by all means be examined at the council meeting. We will invite journalist Artemyev to tell us what happened at [the police station],” she said, RIA Novosti writes.
Moscow police vowed that the situation will be looked into. However, they insist that Artemyev suffered no serious bodily injuries. Spokeswoman Zhanna Ozhimina told gazeta.ru that the journalist was hospitalized with “[an arm] displacement and a chest contusion”. The Central Internal Affairs Directorate also stressed that Artemyev got injured not at the police station, but in a police bus.
“Moreover, he was complaining about pain in the shoulder while on the way to the district Department of Internal Affairs,” she noted.
The journalist, however, maintains that he felt absolutely fine before he was taken to police.
Over ten people sought medical help following the dissolution of the march on May 31, GZT.ru reports citing the opposition.
The May 31 rally was the latest in a series of meetings organized by human rights activists and the opposition. It was the ninth time they attempted to stage the Dissenters March in support of Article 31 of the Constitution, and each time Moscow authorities have banned the gathering.
"Despite the fact that the Moscow Mayor's Office had tried in every way to settle discrepancies with the organizers of the so-called 'March of Dissent', to whom various venues were being offered throughout Moscow, those people rejected the sites for their rally that were offered to them and tried to wreck the blood donation rally on Triumfalnaya Square," City Police Authority spokeswoman Zhanna Ozhimina told Interfax earlier.
Being held on the last day of each month with 31 days, the next rally is expected to be staged on July 31.