On August 9, pensioner Fyodor Kobzev, a 56-year-old former employee of the Federal Penal Correction Service, held a one-person picket in Stefanovskaya Square in the center of Syktyvkar with poster "Vote or not, all you get is ... Uyba.” This is how he protested against the removal of communist Oleg Mikhailov, the opponent of acting head of the republic Vladimir Uyba, from elections of the Head of Komi. In order to stop the picket, police officers tasered Kobzev. The correspondent of 7x7 talked to Fyodor Kobzev about the causes and consequences of this incident.
– What happened on August 9?
– I have already held several one-person pickets in Stefanovskaya Square, and there were no problems with that. There used to be something there, but the court seems to have canceled those rules. A sergeant approached me and said that I could not be there, one-person pickets were forbidden there. I said: how come they are prohibited, I have been standing [with a poster] here for the whole spring, show me a law, regulatory act, decree — any reason it is forbidden for me to stand here. And the sergeant could not explain anything, even though he was given a little power, but perhaps his education was not enough for such intellectual things. He walked away and started calling someone. Then he came back and read something from a piece of paper. I replied that this would not do and asked to speak to someone senior, from the Department [of Internal Affairs].
– How did the conflict start?
– Two more sergeants showed up thereafter. They warned that it was forbidden to stand there. I replied that I had understood their warning and said that I would stay there until four o'clock. If I had to show up somewhere, explain myself — I would come voluntarily, by choice. But then a police car drove up, and I think a senior lieutenant and a sergeant got out of it, and the first one immediately began demanding that I get in the car and go to the police control room to be reported under Article 20.2 for violating the rules of picketing, that I was standing in an illegal place. I demanded that they give reason of taking me away from there. He began snooping through his phone, showing some boundaries of the territory. I said: "What are you trying to show me in your phone, I can show you something in my phone that will make your eyes glaze over." Apparently, he was a little offended, moved away, and began calling someone for a long time, discussing the issue.
– What caused the incident with a stun gun?
— If I got it right, these policemen were ordered to simply take me away from the square. Therefore, the senior lieutenant started the detention. He warned me, as police is supposed to do, that if I failed to comply with the requirement to get in their car and go to the police control room, physical force and impact munition would be used against me. I told them that I was not going anywhere voluntarily, "if you have such authority, then grab me and take me away, I am not going by choice." He gave an order to a junior sergeant, and the police took my arms and led me away. I actually got in the car calmly, but this junior sergeant, with such a ferocious face he began snatching my poster out of my hands, tearing it. I said: “Stop it, stop it, this is a rip-off, this is my property, what are you doing!” — and began tearing my poster back. We had a bit of a fight then, it was a mess. They managed to take it from me, started carrying me around the square: they wanted to put me on the ground or whatever. I was in a fever, I do not remember, they could have tasered me, I did not even feel it.
But I was thinking clearly, I was not looking for a given scandal, for bringing the case to criminal prosecution, I said: "Okay, guys, let’s calm down, get in the car, let's go draw up a report, if you insist."
– What do you think of the police's actions?
– I believe that the detention was unjustified and harsh for my offense, it is a complete lawlessness by law-enforcement officers. I did not break anything, I was sober, I was just holding a poster. They did not have to crowd me, to stun me. And what if they start shooting to kill in a week? Well, that is not funny, is it? In the police control room, I was reported under [administrative article] 20.2 [Violating the Established Procedure for Arranging or Conducting a Meeting, Rally, Demonstration, Procession or Picket], the poster was seized until the trial. I asked them the same question: why they detained me, they were rushing, looking for something, I do not know. They had some kind of decree from the Head of the Komi Republic either from 2013, or from 2008. At the end, they brought some paper saying that on June 9, an addendum was issued to one of the decrees that I could not hold one-person pickets on the boundaries of the Constitutional and Commercial Courts. I asked specifically about the distance, they told me that this was from Stefanovskaya Square to Lenin Street.
– Do you want to keep the whole of Syktyvkar within these boundaries?
There was no reply. There will be a trial on the offense soon, we will sort it out. I am going to hold pickets again on the weekend.
The press service of the Interior Ministry for Komi refused to give 7x7 comments on the detention of the picketer and asked to submit a letter of inquiry. Ernest Mezak, a lawyer of the Public Verdict Human Rights Foundation, offered to set up Fyodor Kobzev’s defense.
Dmitry Stepanovsky, «7х7»