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Tuesday 13 August 2019

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Video of Daria Sosnovskaya’s arrest shows two men in uniforms that resemble those of Russia's National Guard taking her toward a police van.

A female protester who was controversially punched and beaten during a rally for free municipal elections in Moscow has been taken to hospital for treatment of a head injury.

Tatyana Molokanova, a lawyer for Daria Sosnovskaya, told Current Time television on August 13 that her client was hospitalized after complaining of headaches and bruises on the top of her head that she suffered while being arrested at the protest on August 10.

Russian civil rights lawyer Pavel Chikov of the legal-aid group Agora added that Sosnovskaya has been diagnosed with a concussion.

"This diagnosis was made by doctors at Moscow Hospital 67, where she was informed late on August 12," he said.

Rallies held each of the past four Saturdays to demand that officials allow independent candidates on the ballot in the upcoming municipal vote have resulted in thousands of arrests and condemnation of the heavy-handed tactics police are using against mostly peaceful protesters.

The police crackdown has been called one of the harshest in recent years against an opposition that has grown more defiant while denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hold on power.

In the Kremlin’s first comments on the crackdown, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on August 13 called the police response “justified” and downplayed the significance of the protests.

Video of Sosnovskaya’s arrest, widely circulated on the Internet, shows two men in uniforms that resemble those of Russia's National Guard taking her toward a police van.

At one point in the video footage, the woman appears to try to kick a police baton lying on the street as one of the officers is trying to pick it up.

The uniformed officer staggers the woman with a punch to her stomach and grabs the baton from the ground before shoving her into the police van seconds later.

The video has added to growing outrage at home and abroad over a decision by officials to block opposition candidates from running in elections for Moscow’s city council.

Russia’s Interior Ministry said on August 12 that it was setting up an investigation of the incident.

Local media have quoted the National Guard as saying that the officer who punched Sosnovskaya is not a member of the Russian National Guard's units.

It is not clear which law enforcement unit the officers belong to.

Russian officers are rarely disciplined for using excessive and disproportionate force against demonstrators.

On August 11, Chikov offered a reward of 100,000 rubles (about $1,500) for help identifying the officer who punched Sosnovskaya.

The independent rights watchdog OVD-Info says more than 350 people were detained across Russia on August 10 during protests against the refusal of election officials to register several opposition candidates for Moscow's municipal elections.

Seventy-nine people were detained in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, 13 in Rostov-on-Don, two in Bryansk, and two in Syktyvkar.

At previous protests in Moscow, police detained about 1,400 people on July 27 and more than 1,000 people on August 3.

Peskov told reporters on August 13 that "the firm action of law enforcement to curb public unrest was absolutely justified."

The Kremlin spokesman said that Putin has "paid attention to what is happening" but did comment because "every day in Russia a huge number of events take place."

"We do not agree with those who call what is happening a political crisis," he also said.

On August 12, Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, called on Russian authorities to "release political prisoners, cease arresting peaceful protesters, and allow opposition candidates to run for office without harassment."

"Congress stands with those in Russia seeking democracy and a government free from rampant corruption," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin created the National Guard in April 2016 to fight terrorism and organized crime.

It is headed by Viktor Zolotov, a former steelworker who had been the head of the presidential security service from 2000 to 2013.

Russia's National Guard reports directly to President Putin.

With reporting by CurrentTime TV and AFP
A mugshot of former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev taken by police after his arrest on August 8.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz security officials have accused former President Almazbek Atambaev of plotting to stage a coup after a deadly confrontation with police during his arrest last week.

Zamir Beishekeev of the Prosecutor-General's Office said on August 13 that Atambaev is accused of using violence against representatives of the authorities, organizing mass unrest, and masterminding a murder attempt, among other charges.

Speaking at the same press conference in Bishkek, the head of the State National Security Committee, Orozbek Opumbaev, accused the ex-president of planning to carry out a coup.

Atambaev surrendered to police on August 8 following a deadly two-day standoff with security forces at his residential compound in the village of Koi-Tash near the capital.

Kyrgyz Ex-President Detained After Special-Forces Officer Dies In Raid On His Compound
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The violence underscored a power struggle between Atambaev and his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, that has raised fears of instability in the Central Asian nation.

The resistance put up by the former president and his supporters resulted in the death of one special forces officer and more than 170 others injured, including 79 law enforcement officers, Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev told reporters.

Opumbaev called the death of the officer a "cynical murder."

The move to detain Atambaev was sparked by his refusal to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning.

Kyrgyz authorities had said that Atambaev faced five counts of criminally abusing his office when he was Kyrgyzstan's president from 2011 to 2017 -- including corruption, abuse of office, and illegally enriching himself.

The storming of the compound came after Deputy Interior Minister Mirlan Kanimetov and several other officials visited Atambaev on July 22 after he had refused to obey a subpoena for a third time.

Under Kyrgyz law, a person who refuses to comply with two subpoenas can be forcibly detained for questioning.

After parliament on June 27 voted to strip immunity from prosecution for former presidents, the embattled Atambaev has spent most of his time at his residential compound and has publicly stated that he has weapons.

His lawyer has called the immunity vote unconstitutional.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from Atambaev to Jeenbekov, which was welcomed by the international community after two other presidential changes -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after violent rioting.

The former Soviet republic remains closely allied with Russia, which operates a military base in the northern Kyrgyz town of Kant.

Last month, Atambaev flew on a private plane to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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