Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Moscow Activist Alleges Beating during Eviction

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Moscow Activist Alleges Beating during Eviction

Article excerpt

The activist, Lev A. Ponomaryov, 71, said he was dragged across a floor and kicked by men in civilian clothing while riot police officers watched.

A prominent Russian human rights advocate said he was kicked and beaten during a forcible eviction before dawn over the weekend that came amid mounting pressure on civil society groups that publicly criticize the government.

The activist, Lev A. Ponomaryov, 71, said he was dragged across the floor and kicked by men in civilian clothing Saturday while riot police officers watched. He said paramedics found "more than a dozen bruises, scratches and other marks" when he received first aid.

The authorities said the lease for Mr. Ponomaryov's organization, For Human Rights, whose building is owned by the city government, expired in February and was terminated last month.

A Moscow police spokesman said Saturday that the mayor's office had ordered the eviction. Police officers raided the office late Friday, but employees refused to leave. The police "did not take any forcible measures," and the eviction was carried out by a private security company, the spokesman said.

Late Saturday, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, a billionaire and former presidential candidate, offered to pay the organization's rent, saying on Facebook, "I personally know Lev Ponomaryov and sincerely value the work that he does.

"Considering the 'culture' of the state's attitude toward its citizens, something similar could happen to anyone in our homeland," he wrote.

Mr. Ponomaryov, a former member of Parliament whose activism dates to the Soviet period, has been vocally defiant in recent months as President Vladimir V. Putin has taken steps to uproot organizations like For Human Rights that receive financial support from the West. Mr. Putin has said Western governments tried to stir up antigovernment protests with the help of nonprofit groups. …

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