September 11, 2018
While images of Russian children, elderly pensioners and other protesters being detained, many violently, in Russian cities on 9 September rightly hit world headlines, there was a lot of police brutality and thuggery that went on away from the cameras. It included the abduction of Mikhail Benyash, a 41-year-old lawyer from Sochi, who had been planning to defend those detained for peacefully trying to take part in protests against pension reform. Peaceful protest, like in Ukraine, is guaranteed by Russia’s Constitution, but in practice depends entirely upon the will of the authorities, and the latter in most cities had refused to ‘authorize’ demonstrations.
On 8 September, Benyash, who has previously defended protesters unwarrantedly arrested and prosecuted, was warned by enforcement officers that he would be imprisoned for 15 days if he tried to do his duty to defend protesters. For that reason, on 9 September, he issued statements to both Russia’s Investigative Committee and the prosecutor’s office concerning this illegal behaviour by the police.
An hour after making this statements, two men in plain clothes seized him in the centre of Krasnodar. They gave no explanation for this ‘detention’, but one called himself ‘Ivan’, though the others called him Dmitry. Benyash recognized the other as somebody called Yegor Dolgov.
He tried to telephone in order to inform people that he had either been arrested or abducted, however they tried to grab his phone. When he resisted, Ivan/Dmitry first twisted his arm, then tried to suffocate him.
One of the witnesses to this detention / abduction, Irina Barkhatova, began videoing what was happening, at which point she was also grabbed and forced into the car, with her phone taken away.