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Russian National Guard Denies Ties To Officer Who Punched Protester

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A screenshot of the video shows the officer punching the woman in the stomach.

Russia's National Guard is distancing itself from video footage that shows a uniformed officer punch a detained female protester in the stomach during an August 10 demonstration in Moscow.

The Moscow-based Govorit Moskva radio station on August 12 quoted a National Guard statement as saying that "the employees in the video footage do not belong to Russian National Guard's units."

The statement did not specify which law enforcement unit the officers belong to.

The video, widely circulated on the Internet, shows two men in uniforms taking a young woman they've detained -- identified as Daria Sosnovskaya -- toward a police van.

The woman appears to try to kick a police baton lying on the street while one of the officers is trying to pick it up. The uniformed officer staggers the woman with a punch in her stomach and grabs the baton from the ground before shoving her into a police van seconds later.

A Moscow police spokesman said on August 12 that an investigation was launched into the incident.

"The Interior Ministry’s Moscow Department has ordered a probe into the use of force against a girl detained for violating public order during the August 10 unauthorized rally," the unnamed spokesman told Russian news agency TASS. "All those responsible would be held accountable."

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

On August 11, Russian civil-rights lawyer Pavel Chikov of the legal-aid group Agora offered a reward of 100,000 rubles ($1,526) for help identifying the officer who punched Sosnovskaya.

"It doesn't matter if the investigations establish the concrete person who caused the harm. He is a representative of the state. Regardless of the outcome, the Russian state will have to pay. And we will make it happen for sure," Chikov said.

Police and other security officers have been criticized in Russia and abroad for their rough treatment of peaceful protesters in Moscow during the past month, including beating them with clubs.

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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.

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 Putin.

With reporting by Govorit Moskva
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