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Russian Pensioner Attacked For Anti-Putin Protest, Vows To Continue Crusade

  • RFE/RL

Vladimir Ionov, 75, is the first person to face prosecution under strict new Russian legislation that can result in prison terms for those who repeatedly attend unsanctioned demonstrations.

Vladimir Ionov, 75, is the first person to face prosecution under strict new Russian legislation that can result in prison terms for those who repeatedly attend unsanctioned demonstrations.

A Russian pensioner facing a potential prison term for protesting against President Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue his activism after he was assaulted by members of a pro-government group while demonstrating near the Kremlin.

Vladimir Ionov, 75, says he suffered burns to the eyes after the pro-Kremlin activists splashed his face with an unidentified green liquid and doused him with a white powder as he held up an anti-Putin placard just off Red Square, Kasparov.ru reported on October 26.

He told the website that the October 24 incident will not deter him from staging peaceful protests.

"Life is a battle. If someone doesn't like something, he should voice his position," said Ionov, a member of the opposition Solidarity movement and a frequent participant in anti-Kremlin protests.

WATCH: Video of the attack

Ionov is the first person to face prosecution under strict new Russian legislation that can result in prison terms for those who repeatedly attend unsanctioned demonstrations.

During his one-man protest on October 24, he was holding a sign reading "If You Have Putin, You Don't Need A Mind" when he was approached by activists from a pro-Kremlin group calling itself the Liberation Movement SERB.

They berated Ionov and accused him of violating Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code, insulting a government representative.

One of those who confronted Ionov then tossed a green liquid resembling paint in his face as the pensioner attempted to shield his eyes with his hands. The same assailant then tossed the white powder in his face.

The leader of the pro-Kremlin activist group, an actor named Igor Beketov who goes by the nom de guerre Gosha Tarasevich, then tore up Ionov's sign.

The Sova Center, a Moscow-based monitor of ultranationalist groups in Russia, reported that the green liquid appeared to be a mixture that may have included ammonium chloride. The white powder was believed to be laundry detergent, the group said.

Ovdinfo, a Russian rights group that tracks arrests at demonstrations, said one of the attackers claimed on social media that the green liquid was merely yogurt and that the white powder was flour.

A video of the assault was posted on the Facebook page of the SERB group, along with a post boasting about the confrontation.

"We defended the honor of the president and did not allow a group of traitors to Russia to insult our president," a statement posted together with the video reads.

SERB activists previously claimed responsibility for vandalizing an improvised memorial near the Kremlin where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in February.

Ionov planned to file a police complaint against his assailants, Ovdinfo reported.

He said in an interview with Grani.ru that Russian opposition activists face similar attacks regularly, but that the October 24 incident "just happened to be recorded and documented very well."

Ionov urged opposition protesters not to respond to those who "throw crap" on them with the same methods.

Ionov faces a potential 1 million-ruble fine ($15,500) or up to five years in prison under a law enacted last year that provides for such punishment for those detained at unauthorized protests four times or more within a six-month period.

The law is part of a broader government campaign to clamp down on protesters since Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third presidential term in 2012 after a four-year stint as prime minister.

The next hearing in Ionov's case at Moscow's Preobrazhensky district court is set to be held on November 5.

With reporting by Kasparov.ru, Sova-center.ru, Ovdinfo.org, and Rapsinews.ru
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