- Freedom of Assembly, News

Russian actor sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, after National Guard officer dislocates shoulder while arresting him at protest

Moscow Tverskoy District Court Judge Alexey Krivoruchko has sentenced Pavel Ustinov, a young up-and-coming actor, to 3.5 years in prison for supposedly attacking a member of Russia’s National Guard at a protest on August 3. Prosecutors asked the court to incarcerate him for six years.

The victim in the case is Sergeant Alexander Lyagin (recently promoted to staff sergeant), who testified that his unit arrested Ustinov as an active participant in an unpermitted demonstration. “He was standing there with a phone in his hand, yes, but he was chanting insults at state officials. He was an active participate,” Lyagin told the court, according to the website Mediazona. Video footage of Ustinov’s arrest, however, shows that he was arrested in almost absolute silence, and he never shouted a word.

Pavel Ustinov says he wasn’t part of the protest, and had merely come to Pushkin Square for a work meeting. Dozhd correspondent Vasily Polonsky testified that he saw Ustinov standing outside the subway station, looking at his phone, and he says he didn’t hear Ustinov chanting any slogans.

Staff Sergeant Lyagin says Ustinov tried to break free from the arresting officers. “I felt like something was off in my shoulder; it clicked whenever I moved it,” Lyagin told the court. Doctors later said he’d dislocated his left shoulder joint, when apprehending Ustinov.

Ustinov says he simply stumbled backwards, when the National Guard troops lunged at him. “I didn’t intend to use force or resist. I was trying to keep my balance, raise my hands, and explain that I wasn’t there for the protest,” he said in court. Judge Krivoruchko refused to review video footage of the arrest submitted by the defense, ruling that evidence introduced by the prosecution was sufficient.

In his verdict, Krivoruchko determined that testimony from National Guard officers was enough to prove Ustinov’s guilt. The judge was also openly skeptical about the witnesses for the defense, and called their testimonies contradictory.

Konstantin Raikin, an honored actor and theater director, came to the court to support Ustinov, and also recorded a video message in his support.