NEW! Second Criminal Case Against Voina Art Group Filed

NEW! Second Criminal Case Against Voina Art Group Filed

Published: April 15, 2011 (Issue # 1651)

(Added on Friday, April 15, 2011)

The St. Petersburg Investigative Committee filed a new criminal case Thursday against Oleg Vorotnikov, an activist of the Voina art group, over his participation in the banned March on Smolny that took place on March 31.

Vorotnikov and Voina’s other activists Natalya Sokol and Leonid Nikolayev walked along Nevsky Prospekt with a group of anarchists during the rally, which was held to demand civic freedoms the dismissal of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko.

According to the web site of the Investigative Committee, Vorotnikov is now accused of three offenses that he allegedly committed during the rally: Disorderly conduct, use of violence against a police officer and insulting a police officer. The gravest of these offenses — use of violence against a police officer — can be punished by up to five years in prison.

The investigators claim that Vorotnikov seized the uniform hats of several policemen and threw them into the road on Nevsky Prospekt, and then hit a police officer in the head, “causing physical pain to him.” He then allegedly jumped on the hood of a police car and “intentionally damaged the right rear view mirror,” after which he was detained by the police.

Vorotnikov denies the accusations, saying that he and other Voina members were attacked, beaten and then detained by the police, while Vorotnikov and Sokol’s toddler son Kasper was seized from them by the officers and taken away.

Voina’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze sees the criminal case as the law enforcement bodies’ reaction to complaints about the police’s behavior during and after the incident.

“I think, first, it’s the police’s counteraction to the information about the attacks, secondly, it’s the prosecutor and police’s reaction to an inquiry from ombudsman [Vladimir] Lukin and an official enquiry from [State Duma deputy Oleg] Shein into the fact of massive violations of human rights and freedoms by police officers on March 31,” Dinze said Thursday.

“The police are attempting to put the blame for everything on Nikolayev, Kasper Vorotnikov and Koza [Sokol’s artistic name in the group].”

Dinze said that the authorities may use the new criminal case to put Vorotnikov back in prison. Vorotnikov and Nikolayev were released on bail late February after spending three months in a St. Petersburg prison after they were charged with criminal mischief in November for an art stunt that involving overturning police cars. Both face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.

“We’ll fight back; we have two items of documented material concerning the policemen’s violence against activists,” Dinze said.

Vorotikov said that by filing the new criminal case, the police are attempting to defend themselves.

“Dinze filed reports on the policemen who attacked me and Koza and stole Kasper from us, and ombudsman Lukin and deputy Shein got interested in the case,” Vorotnikov said.

“The policemen respond by using their typical scheme: File a criminal case against the activists. The policemen lie, openly and cynically claiming that it was not us who were attacked by them, but allegedly we attacked the policemen, and harmed ourselves at the same time.

“If the policemen are to believed, it turns out that Koza herself tried to break her own leg with the door of her cell at police precinct 78. And I allegedly attacked policemen while holding a baby in my arms.

“The police scheme works as following: They file cases and then spin them out. Once they’ve built up the case, they offer an ‘exchange’ — if I take back my report, they’ll close the case. It’s the most common scheme.”

Earlier this month, Voina was awarded by the Innovation prize by the Culture Ministry for its controversial art stunt “A Dick Taken Prisoner by the FSB,” in which the group painted a giant phallus on Liteiny bridge just before the bridge was raised for the night.

For an interview with Vorotnikov on Voina’s art click here.

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