The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Eduard Malyshevsky and Nikita Chirtsov
Eduard Malyshevsky and Nikita Chirtsov were the last to be detained in the Moscow Case. They have been charged under Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Using force against a public official without endangering life or health’).
Memorial Human Rights Centre (HRC), in line with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers Eduard Malyshevsky and Nikita Chirtsov political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that those responsible for their unlawful prosecution be held to account. We also demand the prosecution of those responsible for the violent dispersal of peaceful protesters by who are critics of the authorities in Moscow and other regions of Russia.
On July 30, 2019, a criminal investigation was opened into rioting in Moscow that allegedly took place on July 27 2019 during a protest against the refusal to allow opposition candidates to take part in elections to the Moscow City Duma. The protest was attended by many thousands but had lacked ‘official permission.’ Sixteen persons have been charged.
Eduard Malyshevsky and Nikita Chirtsov were the last to be detained (on August 30 and September 2, respectively). They have been charged under Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Using force against a public official without endangering life or health’).
According to the investigation, Malyshevsky smashed a window on a police bus, causing pain to police officer D. Astafiev when glass fell on him. Chirtsov, according to the Investigative Committee, pushed a police sergeant, causing him pain.
The facts of ‘violence’ with which Eduard Malyshevsky and Nikita Chirtsov have been charged are baseless. In smashing the window of a police van Malyshevsky clearly had no intention to use force and police officer D. Astafiev, who allegedly felt pain from the glass falling on him, testified that he received no injury. It is also impossible to consider the pushing of a police sergeant by Nikita Chirtsov an act of violence. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that these incidents happened in spontaneous reaction to the unlawful violence of the police against demonstrators.
Memorial’s representatives were at the scene of the events on July 27, 2019 and have carefully examined video recordings of the protest, including the ‘clashes’ between demonstrators and police and other materials of the case.
They are convinced that the protest was peaceful in nature.
According to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the most important civic rights. The authorities must facilitate the conduct of assemblies and protect their security. On July 27, 2019 they did the opposite: they hindered a peaceful protest, broke it up, detained some 1,500 participants and used force. Unlawful obstruction of a rally, demonstration or assembly is punishable under Article 149 of the Russian Criminal Code by deprivation of liberty for up to three years.
Memorial HRC is certain, given the way in which the criminal investigation was conducted, that the intent of the authorities has been to intimidate participants in protests with a view to ending such protests and to intimidate the opposition.
Members of the opposition who were jailed were practically declared guilty in advance of any court hearing. The mayor of Moscow, as well as, indirectly, the press secretary of the president of Russia, declared there had been riots in Moscow, thereby putting pressure on the law enforcement agencies and the courts. State television and other pro-government media reported the falsehood that there had been ‘rioting’ and branded the protesters as criminals.
The fact that, under pressure from the public, charges against a number of individuals have been dropped only confirms that these charges were based not on law but were politically motivated.