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'Victim' Says Russian Activist 'Does Not Deserve Imprisonment'

Nikita Chirtsov in a Moscow court on November 12.
Nikita Chirtsov in a Moscow court on November 12.

MOSCOW -- A Moscow police officer who authorities say was assaulted by an activist has said the suspect "does not deserve imprisonment."

Investigators say Nikita Chirtsov pushed Yuriy Mikhalyonok during an unsanctioned protest on July 27, inflicting physical pain on the officer.

A Moscow court on November 12 ruled that Chirtsov must remain in pretrial detention until April 30, despite Mikhalyonok saying during the hearing that he "did not feel any pain during the attack" and that he is "ready to make peace" with Chirtsov.

Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Chirtsov to 3 years and 2 months in prison.

Mikhalyonok told RFE/RL after the hearing on November 12 that Chirtsov's "action against me was not that heavy."

"I think the punishment for this action should not be imprisonment. He [Chirtsov] does not deserve a prison term," Mikhalyonok said.

Chirtsov was initially detained at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow on July 27 to protest the refusal by election officials to register independent and opposition candidates for September 8 elections to the Moscow city council.

He was then charged with the violation of regulations for holding public events and fined 12,000 rubles ($185), after which he left Moscow for the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

However, Belarusian officials detained him days later on a Russian request and ordered him sent back to Moscow.

Upon his return, Chirtsov was rearrested and charged with assaulting a police officer during the rally and placed in pretrial detention.

Dozens of protesters have been fined or given jail sentences for organizing and participating in a series of unsanctioned rallies over the summer ahead of the September vote.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized several activists arrested in the case as political prisoners.

Security forces were criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during the rallies, and the judiciary has since taken a similar hard-line approach in detaining and sentencing protesters.

Several activists were charged with assaulting police and handed stiff sentences. In one case, after a sharp public outcry over the court's approach, one of those convicted had his prison term changed to a suspended sentence.

One activist charged with the attempted assault of a police officer during the July 27 rally, Aidar Gubaidullin, left Russia for Lithuania after he was released by a court in September amid a public outcry over the trumped-up charges.

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

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