The Institute of Modern Russia continues its series of articles dedicated to Russian political prisoners with a profile of Yaroslav Beloussov, a political science student at Moscow State University and a defendant in the “first wave” of the Bolotnaya trials. On September 8, 2014, after two years and three months of imprisonment, Beloussov is due to be released.

 

Photo: ITAR-TASS

 

Name: Yaroslav Gennadievich Beloussov
Date of Birth: July 30, 1991

Yaroslav Beloussov is charged with participation in the organization of mass riots on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and violent actions against a representative of authority. On February 24, 2014, he was sentenced to two years and six months in a general penal colony. He is due to be released on September 8, 2014.

Yaroslav Beloussov, a political science student at Moscow State University (MSU), was arrested on June 9, 2012, and has been held in custody ever since. He was charged with participation in the organization of mass riots and violent actions (not threatening life or health) against a representative of authority. The investigators maintain that Beloussov “threw stones and pieces of asphalt at the police officers, tried to break through a cordon, and hit the officers.” Additionally, it was reported that the defendant chanted anti-government slogans, did not follow police orders “to stop unlawful activity,” and “purposefully threw an unidentified ball-shaped yellow object at a police officer.”

The police officers’ testimonies served as the key evidence in the prosecution against Beloussov. The law enforcement representative who was allegedly a victim of Beloussov’s violent actions was identified as police officer Vladimir Filippov. During his initial testimony, Filippov reported that on May 6, 2012, he was injured in the head and right forearm (which, as he pointed out later, was hit by a “half-full bottle”). According to the officer, he did not sustain any other injuries; however, just two weeks later, Filippov unexpectedly provided additional details for this statement, saying that a young man threw a hard, ball-shaped yellow object at him. Later, he identified Beloussov as this young man in the security camera footage from Bolotnaya Square. He also suggested that the object thrown at him was a billiard ball. His testimony was confirmed by a riot police officer named Andrey Lebedev, who served as a witness for the prosecution.

Before the court investigation was completed, an official spokesperson for the Russian Investigative Committee publicly claimed that during the Bolotnaya protest, Russian police officers were attacked with billiard balls. Yet no billiard balls were found on Bolotnaya Square following the protest. Nor did security camera footage show that Filippov was hit by any objects. Still, the court sustained the prosecution’s version, saying the following: “Following his criminal intent, the defendant purchased an unidentified ball-shaped object at an unidentified place at an unidentified time.” On May 6, 2012, he threw this “unidentified object” at Filippov.

While in prison, Beloussov wrote in one of his letters that the boundaries between the “world of formal freedom” and “that of prison life” have become increasingly blurred: virtually anyone in Russia can fall victim to criminal prosecution.

In her interview with IMR, Ekaterina Goriaynova, Beloussov’s lawyer, pointed out that, “Evidence [provided by the prosecution] was very contradictory. We have Filippov’s testimony, in which he contradicts himself. As do the testimonies of witnesses [for the prosecution].” According to Dmitry Agranovsky, Beloussov’s second lawyer, “The conclusions reached by the court and included in the verdict are not supported by evidence, but, rather, are refuted by this evidence.”

Yaroslav Beloussov doesn’t admit guilt and maintains that on May 6, 2012, he went to Bolotnaya Square protest for research purposes—he was collecting data for his thesis. According to Goriaynova, the real reasons why Beloussov became a defendant in this case are as follows: he had been charged with an administrative offense for participating in the Bolotnaya protest (he was arrested with hundreds of other protesters and soon released); and, unlike many other protesters, he could be identified on the security camera footage of the May 6 events. Goriaynova said that the way the case was tried left her with little doubt that Beloussov would be found guilty. And that was exactly what happened. In January 2014, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court rejected Beloussov’s amnesty appeal and sentenced him to two years and six months in a general penal colony.

 

Photo: RIA Novosti

 

While in prison, Beloussov wrote in one of his letters that the boundaries between the “world of formal freedom” and “that of prison life” have become increasingly blurred: virtually anyone in Russia can fall victim to criminal prosecution. He noted that it was difficult (if not impossible) to believe in the fairness of the country’s justice system. He speculated that the goal of the guilty verdict in the Bolotnaya case was to send a signal to Russian citizens: “Do not take to the streets.”

During his time in prison, Beloussov’s health has deteriorated: he has suffered from a hypertensive crisis and bronchial asthma. But it’s a rapid reduction in vision that has caused the most serious concern for his family and lawyers. Beloussov’s wife Tamara reported that he faces a significant risk of retinal detachment, and in prison there are no ophthalmologists.

Most likely, Beloussov’s health problems were the main reason why on June 20, 2014, at the appeal hearing for the defendants in the first wave of the Bolotnaya case, the Moscow City Court reduced his prison term. But only by three months. Hardly anyone expected that the Bolotnaya case verdict would be reversed, and even a three-month reduction came as a satisfaction to Beloussov’s family. “Every week matters now,” said his wife. Now there is hope that there will be enough time to prevent vision loss.

Yaroslav Beloussov is to be released on September 8, 2014.

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