Trial in case of Manege Square mass disorders to begin in Moscow

MOSCOW, August 11 (Itar-Tass) — Moscow’s Tverskoi Court on Thursday will begin the trial of a high-profile criminal case of December mass disorders at Manezhnaya (Manege) Square in the centre of the RF capital.

The court will hold a preliminary hearing on Thursday. It will be held behind closed doors, according to the law.

The criminal case over the riots at Manege Square was opened on December 17, 2010. The defendants are Belarusian citizen, an activist of the unregistered non-governmental organisation The Other Russia, member of the Strategy 31 movement Igor Berezyuk, two activists of The Other Russia Kirill Unchuk and Ruslan Khubayev, as well as Leonid Panin and Alexander Kozevin. All of them are in custody.

Berezyuk is charged with inciting mass disorders, hooliganism, inciting hatred or hostility, acts of violence against a government official and the involvement of an underage person in a crime. Hubayev, Unchuk, Panin and Kozevin are charged with making calls for rioting, vandalism and violence against a government official.

The riots took place in Moscow on December 11, 2010. They were caused by the situation surrounding the murder of a Spartak football club fan Yegor Sviridov during a scuffle with the natives of the North Caucasus, which occurred several days earlier. After that, up to 5,000 football fans and members of informal nationalist groups gathered at Manege Square as they were angered by actions of law enforcers who after initially detaining six suspects in the murder of Sviridov, later released five of them on recognizance. The unauthorized rally turned into a clash with security forces.

Criminal cases were opened on the facts of riots at Manege Square, as well as at the Metro stations Kitai Gorod, Tretyakovskaya, Tverskaya, Filevsky Park and others in connection with infliction of bodily harm, hooliganism and violence against law enforcement bodies.

The five defendants were arrested during the period from January to April this year.

“The criminal investigation against other rioters continues,” spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee (SK) Vladimir Markin said earlier.

According to earlier reports, investigation into the December 11, 2010 riot on Moscow’s downtown Manezhnaya Square is over and its main person named in the criminal charges, Igor Berezyuk, does not recognize his guilt, the man’s lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky said. “My defendant and I signed a protocol on familiarization with the materials of the case,” he told Itar-Tass in late June. “Now these materials will be handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office where the public prosecutor is due to draft an act of indictment that will be then read out in the courtroom.”

Berezyuk is accused of encroachments on several articles of the Criminal Code at a time, including the appeals for public disorders. “As for the riot itself, my defendant doesn’t recognize any guilt on his part in this,” Agranovsky said, adding that Berezyuk refuses to give any evidence as regards the episode with the policeman. Upon the examination of CCTV materials at the beginning of January 2011, the investigators drew a conclusion that Berezyuk had hit an OMON riot police officer on Manezhnaya Square.

Actions of protest were sparked off in a number of Russian cities, including Moscow, by the killing of the 28-year-old football fan, Yegor Sviridov, in a night-time brawl on the outskirts of Moscow. He was killed from a non-lethal gun by a man hailing from North Caucasus.

In Moscow, about 5,000 football fans and nationalistically minded young people filled Manezhnaya Square in the afternoon December 11, chanting nationalistic slogans and provoking incidents with the use of brute force against the non-Slavic-looking passers-by. Clashes between the protesters and the police occurred and 35 persons turned up at hospitals with various injuries by the end of the day.

Manezhnaya Square is a large pedestrian open space at the heart of Moscow bound by the Hotel Moskva to the east, the State Historical Museum and the Alexander Garden to the south, the Moscow Manege to the west, and the 18th-century headquarters of the Moscow State University to the north.

The square forms a vital part of downtown Moscow, connecting Red Square (which sprawls behind the Iberian Gate immediately to the south) with a major traffic artery, Tverskaya Street, which starts here and runs northward in the direction of Saint Petersburg. It is served by three metro stations: Okhotny Ryad, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, and Teatralnaya.

During the 1990s, the Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov had the square closed to traffic and substantially renovated. The centrepiece of the renovated square is a modern trade centre, with four underground storeys and parking lot capped with a rotating glass cupola, which forms a world clock of the Northern hemisphere with major cities marked and a scheme of lights below each panel to show the progression of the hour. Another innovation is the feign river-bed of the Neglinnaya River, which has become a popular attraction for the Muscovites and tourists alike, especially on sultry days of summer. The river’s course is imitated by a rivulet dotted with fountains and statues of Russian fairy-tale characters, as sculpted by Zurab Tsereteli. In 1995, Vyacheslav Klykov’s equestrian statue of Marshal Zhukov was unveiled in front of the State Historical Museum to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moscow Victory Parade, when the Soviet commander had spectacularly rode a white stallion through Red Square and Manege Square.

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