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Controversy Brewing Over Police Beating Of Elderly Russian Man

Russia's police have a reputation for corruption and brutality.
Russia's police have a reputation for corruption and brutality.
(RFE/RL) -- Russian investigators are probing the alleged beating of an elderly man in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

The attack reportedly took place on February 1 but gained attention only this week after a blogger reported the incident on the social-networking site LiveJournal. The case comes amid a heated national debate in Russia about police corruption.

'They Said They Were Going To Kill Me'

Sergei Beloglazov, a 62-year-old piano teacher at Yekaterinburg's state conservatory, says the incident took place when he was approached by a police officer on his way home from a grocery store.

"I went shopping. I took a big backpack, the streets were completely empty," he tells RFE/RL's Russian Service. "Close to some residential buildings, a policeman blocked my path and asked to see my documents. I said that I didn't have documents with me, that I went out to buy bread and didn't see any point in taking them along. He then said he wanted to check my identity and asked me to follow him."

Beloglazov says he refused to go to the police station, arguing that he was carrying a heavy bag full of groceries and just wanted to go home.

He says the officer made a phone call to his colleagues, who arrived at the scene in a police vehicle. Beloglazov was asked to get into the van.

"I said: 'I'm not going, because I don't know you. You're complete strangers and I'm scared.' He said I was resisting a law enforcement officer and threw me to the ground," Beloglazov says.

"He started kicking me in the head and pushed me toward the police van but I resisted for a long time. I kicked them. They said they were going to kill me."

According to Beloglazov, the officers eventually managed to throw him into the van and took him to a police station, where he was handcuffed and locked in a cell.

He says he was released several hours later and threatened with retaliation if he reported the incident. The police officers allegedly stole the equivalent of $66 and a mobile phone from Beloglazov.

The pianist says he suffered a concussion and serious injuries to his hands that so far have prevented him from playing the piano.

Belated Police Response

Local law enforcement agencies have pledged a thorough investigation and the head of the Interior Ministry administration, Mikhail Nikitin, has already met with Beloglazov to express his sympathy.

"If the police officers are found guilty, the head of the Interior Ministry administration will sign an order for the police officers to be called to disciplinary account," says Valery Gorelikh, a spokesman for Yekaterinburg's police force. "The findings will also be sent to the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor-General's Office, which will decide whether to open a criminal case."

Rights campaigners have welcomed the police response, but point out the attack would never have come to light had the LiveJournal blogger not posted details online.

The incident is the latest in a string of assaults involving Russia's notoriously corrupt police.

A Moscow police major is currently on trial for killing two people and injuring seven others during a shooting rampage in a supermarket last year.

Last month, President Dmitry Medvedev fired a police chief in Siberia's Tomsk region after a journalist was viciously tortured and beaten by a police officer in a holding cell for drunks. The journalist died of his injuries.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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