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Police Violence on Bolotnaya Square: What Really Happened

19 November 2012 

Source: (info)

Journalist Aleksandr Podrabinek approached the Public Verdict Foundation after witnessing the beating of 68-year old Turane Varzhabetyan on 6th May 2012 during a street protest on Bolotnaya Square that was broken up by riot police. The journalist spotted an elderly woman lying unconscious on the ground and gave her first aid. Podrabinek was attending the rally in the capacity of correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI).

In his statement to the Foundation, he described the following incident on Bolotnaya Square:

“While the police were pushing back protesters, I saw a woman injured, who I later learnt is Turane Varzhabetyan. Following a second wave of an assault by police officers on protesters, I noticed that she had fallen and was lying on the tarmac. I have a professional medical background, having worked in the ambulance service, so I tried to give her first aid. She had clearly fallen unconscious as a result of the head wound that she had just received. Other witnesses told me that a police officer, who we could not identify, had hit her over the head with a rubber baton. She had already lain unconscious on the ground for a full10 minutes by this time, which demonstrates just how serious her injury was. I would suggest that Ms Varzhabetyan was the victim of a crime that caused her bodily harm.”

Podrabinek has given his assurance that he will give evidence to investigators if the law enforcement authorities decide to launch an inquiry or preliminary investigation into the case.

Pensioner Turane Varzhabetyan has contacted lawyers working for Public Verdict Foundation and requested their assistance in enforcing her rights and bringing the police officer responsible for inflicting her head injury to justice. Turane relates that she had intended to take part in the protest rally on Bolotnaya Square on 6th May of this year. Once she arrived, however, she learnt that it had been called off and the meeting broken up. She set out from the stage, intending to cross a bridge on the Moskva River, but became caught in a crush in the crowd. Varzhabetyan watched as a group of young people emerged from behind the police cordon, put masks on and then threw a smoke bomb into the crowd. It was at this point that riot police began detaining protesters.

When Varzhabetyan saw anti-riot police beating two young protesters, she went over to them and starting shouting at them to stop. It was then that she saw a police officer threatening her with a baton nearby. She felt a blow to her head and lost consciousness.

Varzhabetyan only regained consciousness in the ambulance. Medics advised her to go to hospital, which she refused, since she had left someone at home who required constant care. The ambulance doctor then informed her that if she refused hospitalization, they would not be able to keep her in the ambulance.

“There are many like you,” he said, gave her a jacket and left her at a bus stop. Four hours later, when she had recovered sufficiently, she was able to take public transport and return home. The next day, she went to hospital and was diagnosed with concussion.

Public Verdict's lawyers have sent a complaint to the Investigative Committee with a request that they investigate the incident and launch a criminal prosecution against the police officer who beat an elderly woman on Bolotnaya Square on 6th May 2012. The foundation is also calling for witnesses to step forward with any information that could help an inquiry by contacting them on or +7-(495)-951-1201.

At the present time, Public Verdict is providing legal support to three of the protesters arrested in the Bolotnaya Affair: Mikhail Kosenko, Fyodor Bakhov and Stepan Zimin. The Investigative Committee has yet to launch a prosecution against any of the police officers who are accused of using excessive force, making illegal arrests and cruel treatment of citizens.