October 26, 2013
On Friday evening, at half past five, I went from the offices of Civic Assistance, on Olimpiisky Prospekt, to a board meeting at the Memorial Human Rights Center. I was not feeling well for some reason, and two of our charges escorted me to the Dostoevskaya metro station.
Five minutes later, I exited the metro at Tsvetnoi Bulvar station and immediately heard my mobile ring. It was my escorts calling.
“We’ve been detained by the police. They’ve nabbed us and are taking us to Meshchanskoye police precinct.”
“Did they check your papers?”
“They didn’t check anything. They said they’d sort things out at the precinct.”
“But what happened?”
“Nothing happened. They just bundled us into a car, and that was that.”
“Put one of the police officers in the car on the phone.”
There was a pause.
“They won’t do it.”
“Show them your papers!”
“They refuse to look at them.”
Both my escorts are Uzbek nationals, and their papers are in order. One has a certificate stating that his application for refugee status is under review, while the other has a individual work permit. Both are registered with the migration service.
When I arrived at Memorial, I called the on-duty prosecutor, as Moscow city prosecutor Sergei Kudeneyev advised us to do only yesterday at a meeting with the prosecutor’s public advisory council. At first, the on-duty prosecutor opined that he had nothing to do with it, and then he suggested that our detainees had no papers. But a reference to the Moscow city prosecutor worked: the on-duty prosecutor wrote down the names of our detainees and my name, and promised to call the Meshchanskoe precinct.
Then I called Alexander Kulikovsky, a member of the Moscow police’s public advisory council. He went to Meshchanskoe precinct. There were about a hundred people there who had been detained the same way as our guys: the police had simply grabbed them on the street, picking out only passersby of non-Slavic appearance.
Around half past eight, the precinct was called and the names of my escorts were mentioned. The guys heard this, raised a ruckus and demanded to be released immediately. The officers at the precinct did not particularly mind letting them go, but as they did, they said, “You had no business going to the mosque.”
It was only then we realized what had happened. There is a mosque not far from Dostoevskaya metro station: all its alleged visitors had been caught up in the dragnet.
Alexander Kulikovsky called me at half past eleven at night: there were still around fifty detainees at Meshchanskoe precinct.
Apparently, this is how Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin is fulfilling his promise “not to leave a single place in the city where illegal immigrants could take shelter, monitor the criminally inclined and drug addicted, and step up efforts in the fight against gambling and illicit smoking blends.”
So this is the so-called fight against illegal immigration and crime in Moscow we are now going to be witnessing every Friday?