Assaulted peaceful protester denied justice

Margarita Yudina - © YouTube/Fontanka.Ru
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Following the arbitrary arrest at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport and detention of an opposition activist and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny, hundreds of thousands of people took part in peaceful protests across Russia on 23 and 31 January 2021. The authorities responded with violence. International and Russian media showed footage of peaceful protesters being brutally beaten and arrested by police. According to Russian monitoring organization OVD-Info, more than 4,000 protesters were arrested on 23 January alone (with almost 600 of them in St Petersburg) and over 5,700 protesters were arrested on 31 January. Following the court hearing against Aleksei Navalny on 2 February which resulted in his imprisonment, protests took place again, and a further 1,400 people were detained. Thousands of people have been issued with large fines or sentenced to several days in detention under administrative law, and at least 40 criminal cases have been initiated against participants and organisers of the protests across the country. However, not a single investigation has been initiated so far into the unlawful use of force by the police.

Margarita Yudina is one of the peaceful protesters seeking justice for a brutal, unprovoked attack against her by a police officer during a peaceful rally. On 23 January, Margarita Yudina travelled some 147 km to St Petersburg from the town of Luga, in Leningrad Region, where she lives with her two sons (25 and 20-years-old) and her 15-year-old daughter, to take part in the demonstration.

On 26 January 2021, shortly after Margarita Yudina announced that she was planning to file an official complaint demanding an investigation into the policeman’s attack against her, she was visited by officials from the Prosecutor’s Office and child protection services at her home – something which happens when the authorities consider taking underage children into state care child welfare considerations. According to Margarita Yudina's lawyer, the officials insisted that they “only wanted to talk to her and her daughter” but she did not let them in. Two days later, the head of the local administration publicly stated that the child protection services had “questions” regarding the teenager’s living conditions and studies. He also questioned why Margarita Yudina’s sons had neither served in the army nor registered for military conscription.

Under Russian law, all men between the ages of 18 and 27 are obliged to register for military conscription and serve in the Armed Forces if conscribed, unless they are exempt, including on the grounds of health conditions or studying at a university. Over the last few years, the Russian authorities have apparently resorted to selective conscription to enlist politically active men under 27 years of age in to the army as a form of reprisal for dissent. Among those selectively conscripted are active associates of Aleksei Navalny, including the anchor of his YouTube channel, Ruslan Shaveddinov, Navalny’s aide Artem Ionov, and the press secretary of the independent trade union Doctors’ Alliance, Ivan Konovalov.

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