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David Frenkel is seen in the hospital after surgery on June 30.

A Russian journalist whose collarbone was broken by a police officer was fined for failing to obey police as he reported during a national vote on a series of changes to the constitution.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A Russian journalist whose collarbone was broken by a police officer was fined for failing to obey police as he reported during a national vote on a series of changes to the constitution, a charge he denies.

A court in St. Petersburg on July 27 fined Mediazona news website correspondent David Frenkel 500 rubles ($7) after finding him guilty of refusing to follow a police officer's instructions at a polling station on June 30.

Police said that during his detainment, in which an officer broke Frenkel's collarbone, the journalist "provoked a conflict situation" by resisting law enforcement officers, pushing them, using his feet and leaning against walls even though video presented at the hearing failed to show such a scene.

Russian Police Break Bone Of Journalist Covering Constitutional Vote
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Additionally, the court ordered Frenkel to pay 2,000 rubles ($28) for "meddling" in the work of the election commission and warned him not to violate further the "self-isolation regime" that was in effect in St. Petersburg at the time of the incident to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Frenkel had gone to the polling station to check possible violations during the national vote on controversial amendments that among other things allows President Vladimir Putin the possibility to seek new terms in office after his current one expires in 2024.

Video of the incident posted on social media shows two police officers tackling Frenkel to the ground. A cracking noise can be heard, followed by Frenkel screaming out in pain.

He underwent surgery due to his injury on June 30.

Denis Dmitriyev, the police officer who detained Frenkel, said at the hearing that he detained the journalist at the request of the election commission's chairman because Frenkel "was interfering with the voting process," an accusation Frenkel denies.

Frenkel has filed a lawsuit against the police officer, accusing him of abuse of power.

A former city official, Dmitry Abramov, who said he was an observer at the polling station, testified at the hearing that Frenkel "most likely" broke his collarbone when he fell down on the floor and the injury was not inflicted by police.

During the incident, Abramov stepped on Frenkel's leg and pulled his arm, trying "to prove" that the journalist was faking injury.

However, the St. Petersburg Public Chamber said Abramov was not an accredited observer, Mediazona has reported, raising questions about why he was there.

The Three Women Challenging Lukashenka In Belarus
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Human rights groups have accused Belarusian authorities of fostering an atmosphere of "fear and intimidation" ahead of the August presidential election.

MINSK -- Human rights groups have accused Belarusian authorities of fostering an atmosphere of "fear and intimidation" ahead of a presidential election scheduled for August 9.

The Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections campaign, run by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center in Minsk, said in a joint statement on July 27 that a campaign of repression has been initiated by the authorities, including the current detention of 25 individuals on politically motivated charges.

In all, the total number of people arrested since the beginning of the election campaign exceeds 1,140, of whom 190 were incarcerated and 333 were ordered to pay fines, the activists said.

The rights groups emphasized that the Supreme Court of Belarus had denied the appeal of potential opposition presidential candidate Valer Tsapkala against the decision of the Central Election Commission to reject his registration and refused to look into a similar complaint filed by another potential candidate, Viktar Babaryka.

Experts of the Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections campaign believe that when making the decision on Tsapkala's complaint, the court ignored the circumstances of the case and failed to take into account "important reasons" that created obstacles for Babaryka's campaign to meet deadlines, which legislation allows to be prolonged.

Tsapkala had to flee the country with his children several days ago, fearing a politically motivated arrest, while Babaryka and his son Eduard were arrested in June on embezzlement charges, which they and their supporters call trumped up and imposed in order to prevent Babaryka from taking part in the vote.

The joint statement by the human rights groups also noted that the Central Election Commission's move to reduce the number of observers at polling stations to five people bars independent observers from monitoring the election process and violates the basic principle of transparency in democratic elections.

The statement expressed a particular concern over statements made by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the head of the Security Council, Andrey Raukou, about the possibility of involving troops to counter protests and demonstrations.

"Representatives of the Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections consider it as creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the society," the statement said.

The August 9 election comes as Lukashenka faces mounting public opposition after 26 years in power. Hundreds of people, including activists and bloggers, have been arrested as the government has cracked down hard on rallies and demonstrations supporting opposition candidates who were not registered by election officials.

Western governments and institutions, including the United Nations, have called on Lukashenka's government to stop the crackdown.

Tsapkala's wife, Veranika Tsapkala, who remained in the country, and a coordinator of Babaryka’s campaign, Maryya Kalesnikava, have joined to support opposition presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya who, unlike Tsapkala and Babaryka, was registered as a presidential candidate.

Tsikhanouskaya became a candidate after her husband, well-known vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, was incarcerated for openly expressing his intention to run for president.

Tsikhanouskaya also moved her two children to an EU country out of concern for their safety after receiving threats ahead of the election.

On July 26, Tsikhanouskaya told a gathering of thousands of people who came to express their support for her in the southeastern city of Homel that her son told her via the Internet that he was "scared for her."

'No Longer Afraid': Mass Rallies Support Belarusian Opposition Candidate
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"I don’t want to live in a country where it’s scary to live. I want to live in my native country, where it is not scary to live, it is not scary to talk," Tsikhanouskaya said.

She stressed that by removing "the three strongest candidates for the presidency" -- Syarhey Tsikhanouski, Viktar Babaryka, and Valer Tsapkala -- "the authorities failed to take into account that "behind every strong man stands a strong woman."

Lukashenka has rejected domestic and Western criticism of the government's violent dispersal of pro-democracy demonstrations and the disqualification of candidates.

The Belarusian leader has ruled the country since 1994 and is currently serving his fifth term as president. Belarus abolished presidential term limits in 2004.

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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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