OMON Sergeant Alexander Lyagin, who according to court files sustained injuries inflicted by Pavel Ustinov, believes the actor has been slapped “an excessively brutal” measure of restraint, despite insisting that Ustinov is guilty, Russian media reported from the Moscow City Court, where an appeal by lawyers against the verdict in the Ustinov case is currently being looked into.
On 16 September, the Tverskoy Court in Moscow sentenced Ustinov to 3.5 years behind bars on charges of resorting to force against a riot police officer resulting in fractures in his forearm during an unauthorised rally in the Russian capital on 3 August.
He has denied the charges outright, arguing he hadn’t done any harm to the officer and hadn’t even meant to take part in the protest over Moscow City Council candidates’ failure to register for the election, but had a business meeting scheduled for that time in downtown Moscow.
Numerous Russian showbiz celebrities and politicians have since protested the actor’s conviction, with Andrei Turchak, the secretary of the general Council of the governing United Russia party, asserting that Ustinov was just a bystander, as is allegedly obvious from rally videos.
On 20 September, the court changed his measure of restraint from custody to recognisance not to leave town, releasing him on the latter condition. While the Chief Prosecutor’s Office requested that the actor’s sentence be softened and not to keep him behind bars, the defence is asking to acquit him, recognising his innocence.
A wave of unauthorised protests were held in Moscow beginning in mid-July, after authorities barred opposition figures from participating in the September 8 election after they failed to gather a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for the electoral race.
Hundreds of people were detained by police during the rallies. Although most of those arrested were later released, some of the organisers of the protests were held in custody until late September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed citizens’ right to peaceful protests, adding, though, that laws must not be broken and that neither protesters nor law enforcement are entitled to resort to violence.