With guests and foreign delegates arriving in Russia to attend the FIFA World Cup, the Vladimir Putin administration has started identifying people critical of Kremlin. The Russian Police recently arrested Maria Dubovik, a 19-year-old medical student, for disparaging the Putin government in a private chat with friends. She will have to be behind the bar until at least September. This is just the beginning…..
The concerned authorities have also taken homeless people and rough sleepers in Moscow to ‘special camps‘ away from World Cup venues. Some of them claimed that they were beaten when refused to comply. A police officer, who wished to remain anonymous, told the press: “We just push them all out into the street towards special buses. Then with words or batons we push them in – and goodbye!”
Certainly, the most sensational incident is the detention of Dubovik as she appeared in a Moscow court charged with ‘organising an extremist group‘. Although Dubovik applied for house arrest (instead of jail term), the judge rejected her request. Maxim Pashkov – a lawyer and one of Dubovik’s sympathisers – stressed: “The increased security measures (around the World Cup) have led to innocent people getting in trouble, and dishonest law enforcement officials are using this to their advantage. The atmosphere is such that they arrest first and figure out what actually happened later.”
Homeless in Moscow
Meanwhile, Irina – a homeless woman – claimed that the concerned authorities in Moscow were torturing poor people in the name of evacuation. Apart from the Russian capital, other World Cup host cities have experienced similar crackdowns on homeless people. Homeless people from Kazan have been taken to Naberezhnye Chelny in Tatarstan and those from Ekaterinburg have been sent to Chelyabinsk. “They have already started cleaning up. Four buses left Paveletsky and Kazansky railway stations. How are they doing it? Just like this: in the evening or at night, they come up when a few witnesses are around, and put people in. Of course, nobody wants to go, so they force them – even beating sometimes. You cannot say no to these people,” Irina told the media.
As expected, Moscow Regional Security and Anti-Corruption Department has rubbished media reports, saying in a statement: “Homeless people are also citizens of this country. So, it is unconstitutional to take them somewhere else forcibly. We didn’t receive any such instruction from the government.”
The Russian government’s statement fails to convince the global community, which has blasted Kremlin for targeting President Putin’s political opponents and homeless people in order to present a better image of the country. In the past, the Russians experienced similar situation when their country hosted mega sporting events. During the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the streets of the capital were effectively vacated by the then Soviet authorities. President Putin – who had served as a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years – maintains the same tradition.
Interestingly, head of Moscow Regional Security and Anti-Corruption Department Vladimir Chernikov has admitted that the Russians were tortured during the Soviet era, saying: “Thirty eight years ago, before the Olympic Games, Moscow suddenly became deserted. All ‘non-trustworthy’ citizens – the term ‘homeless’ was not used at that time – were strongly advised to leave the capital in order not to disturb the foreign guests. Those beggars and other filth should not spoil the image of the socialist city.”
The Soviet Union is no more….. but expelling the homeless is still there….
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