MOSCOW – On the night of July 14, police officers and members of the Specialized Police Group (OMON) beat Epoch Times reporter Anton Kolyada and broke his arm while illegally taking him off a train at the Leningrad railway station in Moscow.
Kolyada, a manager for the Russian Epoch Times edition, was boarding the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg with four other journalists, all heading to St. Petersburg to cover the Second Russian Social Forum.
The train conductor checked Kolyada's ticket and a passport and let him board. But before Kolyada could make it to his seat, police stopped him. An officer told him that there were many double bookings for seats and that he would have to leave the train for a check.
Since Kolyada's seat was unoccupied, he asked the policeman to show his "double," and also asked that the person in charge resolve any seating problem. Instead, the police officer called for OMON officers who forced Kolyada off the train, beat him, and broke his right arm.
Police also forcibly confiscated all witnesses' cameras and deleted the photos. They violently seized cassettes from the recorders of anyone who had videotaped their actions. Only one short sound recording on a mobile phone was saved.
One of the passengers said: "When I saw what was going on at the station, I started recording the event on my mobile phone. At that time, two plainclothes requested that I stop recording and tried to take my phone away." Police took Kolyada to the police station. In the morning, he went to the emergency room, where they put his arm in a cast. According to Kolyada, hospital staff refused to file a report of the beating, asserting that they were following police orders.
"In the beginning, at the police station they refused to accept my claim. But after repeated requests and clarifications that their actions were illegal, they finally accepted it," said Kolyada. He added that after he was released from the police station, two plainclothes followed him closely for a day.
Police also arrested 12 people who practice Falun Gong, the spiritual cultivation discipline. They were on their way to the G8 summit, underway in St. Petersburg. According to one of the victims, the goal of their trip was "to ask President Putin that he urge Hu Jintao to stop persecuting Falun Gong and end the [illicit] organ harvesting in China."
None of the arrested passengers were compensated for the cost of their tickets.
Two journalists and two Falun Gong practitioners managed to avoid police by entering other cars. However, in St. Petersburg, they were met by OMON officers and transported to the local police station "just for ten minutes," as they were told.
All of the arrested refused to have their pictures and fingerprints taken. The promised 10 minute procedure turned into several hours. According to the police, they had the order "from above" to prevent Falun Gong practitioners from participating in the Forum. Because of the arrest, the Epoch Times reporters missed out on covering the important events that underway in St. Petersburg.
Olga Mikhailova, a lawyer from The International Advocacy Assistance Center said: "Unprecedented measures were taken; the same thing happened before the Other Russia Forum. Why does our government behave like this? I don't know. This is against the law. Who gave such orders? Who allowed this?" Alexander Podrabinek, a renowned human rights lawyer and chief editor of PRIMA News, commented on the event: "The old practice of 'preventive measures' is arising again. It means that you are arrested before you have committed a crime. It was widespread in the Soviet Union before important events (plenary sessions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, concerts, etc.).
"Obviously, it was an attempt to adjust the previous system to the new environment. I can't recall such violations taking place during the last 15 years since Chechnya [violations like]: … perfect coordination of police, overt violations of the law towards different organizations and movements (journalists, politicians, religions, etc).
"If the society does not stop them, they might continue in the same way. It is also surprising that many western leaders, who came to St. Petersburg, keep silent about it. This is the equivalent of betraying ideas of democracy and civilized society."
The Epoch Times asked Yuriy Krutov, the policeman on duty at the Leningrad station, why citizens of Russia and journalists not allowed to attend the Second Russian Social Forum. The answer was: "I can't explain this fact and I can't be responsible for each fellow worker and his actions. Maybe, it was some kind of administrative violation…"