Russian Police’s New Enemy: Senior Citizens
According to Russian media (in Russian), Ministry of Home Affairs (whose main agency is police) held tactical maneuvers in Moscow suburbs today. During these maneuvers, SWAT troops were trained to disperse, according to the script, “a group of senior citizens that protested social injustice and blocked a federal highway.” In order to do this, the whole arsenal was used by the police: water cannons, shock grenades, and tear gas. Troops blocked and arrested some of the “senior citizens.”
Minister Rashid Nurgaliev was watching the maneuvers and was apparently satisfied. A lot of civilian journalists couldn’t share his optimism. Even the reports of government TV called the event “very strange.” Here is a report of Vesti news TV channel (one of the most official TV channels owned by the government, in Russian):
Of course, when the scandal broke out, MHA hurried to deny any references to senior people in their maneuvers’ script, the use of water cannons and the very fact of maneuvers; state TV channels removed their news reports from their Web sites. Fortunately, somebody saved the clips and uploaded them to YouTube.
We shouldn’t be so shocked by the maneuvers’ cynical script. In fact, it is already happening in real life. Russian riot police routinely use force to disperse peaceful protests and don’t mind arresting and beating elderly people. I have already posted a video of one such arrest at a vigil for Natalya Estemirova, a deceased human rights activist. Here is another one filmed on December 14, 2008, at Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow where elderly veteran officers tried to stage a peaceful protest but were violently attacked by riot police: