Another police officer has decided to go rogue. Following in the footsteps of Aleksei Dymovsky
, Yekaterina Rogoza
, and others, Artyom Charukhin decided it was time to tell the truth -- and it cost him his job.
But unlike Dymovsky and Rogoza, who made public their knowledge of police abuse and corruption via the Internet, posting videos on YouTube, Charukhin made his revelations in a Moscow courtroom.
The story began on New Year's Eve on Moscow's Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, where the Strategy 31 movement was holding a rally that was broken up by police. Opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, and others were arrested and accused of attacking police.
In his official police report of the incident, Charukhin wrote
that Yashin violently assaulted police officers in an attempt to prevent them from detaining Nemtsov:
On December 31 at 20:50 hours I was together with Kondrashov. This is when Nemtsov was detained. Citizen Yashin was together with Nemtsov. During Nemtsov’s detention, Yashin actively resisted; he pushed me and Police Sergeant Kondrashov away from Nemtsov; he did not respond to lawful orders to stop his illegal actions, thus preventing us from carrying out our duties.
Yashin and Nemtsov ended up spending five and fifteen days in jail, respectively.
But a funny thing happened last week when Yashin challenged the legality of his detention in court. Charukhin disavowed his report, saying that he wrote it on the orders of his superiors.
The transcript of the following extraordinary exchange was posted on Yashin's blog
on LiveJournal and republished by RFE/RL's Russian Service
and the weekly "Novaya gazeta
Yashin: You cannot prove to the court that I refused to carry out your instructions. Do I understand you correctly?
Charukhin: Well, you just fought.
Yashin: Were you present in the area during my detention?
At Yashin's request, the judge then reads out Charukhin's December 31 police report for the court.
Yashin: How was it that you said I pushed you away from Nemtsov when you could not even see Nemtsov?
Charukhin: As it happens, that was how the report was ordered to be composed. By dictation.
Defense Attorney: Whose order was that?
Charukhin: Burtsev's, I believe.
Defense Attorney: Who is Burtsev?
Charukhin: He is a senior lieutenant.
Defense Attorney: Does he have authority over you? Are you his slave?
Charukhin: At that time, yes I was. He is our commander.
Defense Attorney: If I understand correctly, you carried out his order for an unlawful detention. Is that correct?
Charukhin: We do everything he says.
Judge: So you are reporting that you were involved in the fact that Yashin was detained for five days?
Charukhin: I was involved
Judge: Why did you meekly obey Burtsev's orders on December 31?
Charukhin: Well, I'm telling you the truth.
Judge: It's good that you are telling the truth. And on December 31 did you not realize then that you were lying?
Charukhin: I was aware of that.
Judge: Were you not outraged?
Charukhin: I was indignant. At first I refused, but they said write it or you will be fired.
Judge: You are now still employed there?
Charukhin: I have already asked to be dismissed once. Now, I will be fired.
Judge: Are you telling the truth now in order to get fired?
Defense Attorney: Why do you wish to resign from the police?
Charukhin: I'm tired of these activities.
Defense Attorney: Do you often carrying out orders to falsify police reports?
Charukhin: No, this was the first time.
Defense Attorney: Do you acknowledge that this was illegal?
Charukhin: Well, Yashin was participating in a demonstration.
Yashin: You know, that the demonstration was sanctioned?
Charukhin: Our commanders said it was not.
This is pretty remarkable stuff.
Russian media initially reported
that Charukhin had been fired for making “contradictory and puzzling” statements and failing to respond to questions from his superiors. But "Novaya gazeta
" reported today, citing Moscow police spokesman Viktor Biryukov, that this was not the case.
Yashin's hearing is scheduled to resume on Thursday, February 10 and it promises to be fascinating.
Truth telling appears to be contagious of late, and not just among the police. Several celebrities who signed an open letter denouncing jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky back in 2005 -- the so-called "Letter of 50" which was published in "Izvestiya," have recently recanted
, saying they were tricked or coerced into doing so.RFE/RL's Russian Service
, meanwhile, has initiated a project in which they will attempt to speak to all 50 signatories of the letter to find out how many more will now recant.
-- Brian Whitmore