ST. PETERSBURG -- An investigation has been opened into the violent dispersal by police of opposition protesters in St. Petersburg on July 31, police officials in the city told journalists, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
A video has been circulated on the Internet of a police officer verbally insulting and beating demonstrators and dragging them by the hair. He has not
been identified by name.
The city's Investigative Committee today issued a statement saying the officer hit a male activist "at least once in the head with his truncheon" with no "sufficient cause."
Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseyeva says the officer in question should be identified and dismissed. If brought to trial and found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
The July demonstration was one of several held in Russian cities to demand freedom of assembly, the latest in a series of protests held on the 31st day of each month that has that many days.
The number 31 is a reference to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.
Andrei Dmitriev, one of the organizers of the July 31 demonstration, told RFE/RL that such police measures are usually counterproductive. He said the beaten demonstrators were not intimidated by the policeman's aggressive actions.
They plan to gather again at the same place on August 31 to show that they are not afraid.