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Moscow Student Faces Criminal Charge In World Cup Vandalism Probe

A statue of Vladimir Lenin stands outside Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
A statue of Vladimir Lenin stands outside Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

A student at a prestigious Moscow university says police have accused him of vandalism after he was detained with two others in connection with a protest against a campus "fan zone" for this month's World Cup.

Dmitry Petelin, 18, confirmed to RFE/RL on June 2 that he is a suspect in a criminal investigation into the defacing of a tournament noticeboard at Moscow State University.

Some students at the university have protested the Moscow city government's move to put up the "fan zone" for some 25,000 people on the edge of their campus, saying it will disrupt student life and exams.

"Yes, I'm being accused," Petelin, a first-year student, told RFE/RL in a chat via the Russian social-networking site VKontakte.

Legal defense activists from the opposition group Open Russia, citing Petelin's lawyer, said earlier on June 2 that the student faces a vandalism charge punishable by incarceration of up to three months. The lawyer, Oleg Yeliseyev, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Petelin told RFE/RL that during questioning by police, he invoked his constitutional right not to give testimony against himself.

The Initiative Group at the university said a day earlier on its Facebook page that two other students were detained while taking an exam. It stressed that it did not approve of any vandalism, but it warned of the dangers of "arbitrariness, provocation, and intimidation by the police."

Petelin told RFE/RL that police called him and said that if he did not come to the precinct voluntarily, they would seek to bring him in by force. He and the two other students were released later on June 1.

The fan site at the university will show televised games on a big screen from the soccer tournament, which Russia will host from June 14 through July 15.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Carl Schreck and AP
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