The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are just around the corner. Although the country has made headlines for its treatment of the LGBT community, Russia also hasn’t been kind to those who actively oppose the government. Pussy Riot is a prime example, but the Bolotnaya 3 is another example of Russia arresting people solely for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression.
The Bolotnaya 3 – Vladimir Akimenkov, Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko – were three men among tens of thousands that protested the reelection of Vladimir Putin in Moscow’ Bolotnaya Square. The protest started peacefully, but then broke out into localized violence. Over 650 people were detained and 47 others were hospitalized. The three men were among those who were detained.
Akimenkov, Saviolov and Kosenko were released, only to be rearrested a month later for “participating in mass riots.” Police allege that Kosenko and Saviolov used force against them, but eyewitness accounts and video footage contradict these allegations. Despite this, all three men are held without bail and were committed to a psychiatric unit in 2013. Amnesty International considers the three men prisoners of conscience, and need to be released immediately and unconditionally.
Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Prosecutor General’s Office
Ul. B. Dmitrovka, d. 15a
125993 Moscow GSP-3
Dear Prosecutor General,
I am writing to call for the release of Vladimir Akimenkov, Artiom Saviolov and Mikhail Kosenko. These three men are prisoners of conscience, unjustly detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly while participating in the Bolotnaya Square protest on May 6, 2012. Video evidence >supports their claims of innocence, and police statements against Akimenkov and Saviolov have changed substantially since the protests.
Furthermore, Mikhail Kosenko has been sentenced to forcible psychiatric treatment and may be deprived of his freedom indefinitely. There is no evidence that he poses a risk to himself or society, nor was he given an independent medical exam to assess his mental health.
I am also concerned that the health of Akimenkov and Saviolov is reportedly deteriorating in detention. Akimenkov, Saviolov and Kosenko all should be immediately and unconditionally released, but while they are detained, I respectfully urge you to guarantee that they receive appropriate medical care.
While I recognize that a considerable amount of violence broke out in Moscow on May 6, it is imperative that Russian authorities uphold all Bolotnaya detainees’ right to a prompt and fair trial, as well as their right to freedom of expression and association. Please drop all charges against those who were peacefully protesting at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and release all Bolotnaya Square protestors who present no risk of endangering public security for the duration of their trials.