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Kremlin notes unprecedented level of violence among participants of January 23 protests

Clashes during unsanctioned rallies were provoked solely by the aggression of the protesters, according to the spokesman
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov  Vitaly Nevar/TASS
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov
© Vitaly Nevar/TASS

MOSCOW, January 26. /TASS/. Clashes during unsanctioned protests in Russia on January 23 were provoked solely by the aggression of the protesters, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

"The level of violence among the participants of these actions was rather unprecedented. They behaved extremely aggressively," the spokesman said, adding that the protesters provoked violence. He noted that in this sense, "it doesn’t seem strange" to him that criminal proceedings had been launched against protesters but not against law enforcement officers.

He said that there should not be any parallels between the lack of criminal cases against law enforcement officers and numerous detentions of protesters, as the law enforcement "did not take part in any unsanctioned actions" and did their job.

The spokesman stressed that this "once again proves that the warnings regarding the danger of taking part in unsanctioned rallies are justified, as these aggressive so-called peaceful protesters are the ones provoking this violence, no one else." "The extremely tense situation in some cities was provoked solely by the aggressive participants of these actions, there cannot be and should not be any doubt or any questions about it," Peskov said.

Speaking about the actions of the police during the rallies, the spokesman said that the arrests are "fully justified." "Force is used when people disobey law enforcement officers," he said.

Senior law enforcement officials gave prompt response to incidents of police brutality that happened during the January 23 unauthorized rallies, the spokesman stated. He pointed out that there was a far greater number of cases of protesters' aggression against law enforcement officers than those of deplorable behavor by police. "Several deplorable incidents did occur, when law enforcement officers used brutal force without a reason. However, senior police officials, including riot police, as well as the law enforcement officers themselves, showed an immediate response," Peskov said, adding that internal probes had been launched.

Namely, Peskov stated that a woman hit by a law enforcement officer in St. Petersburg was a "separate case which was followed by an immediate reaction of the police."

Dialogue with offenders

Russia’s authorities are ready to answer people’s questions but only if they are asked in a legal way, Dmitry Peskov said, adding that there can be no dialogue with those who violate law.

"People who have certain questions, obviously, deserve to hear answers to these questions. But, of course, these questions should be asked within the frames of law, including through mass media, which are meant for that, for voicing one’s position," he said.

He drew attention to the fact that "those who joined the illegal protest rally, who took part in riots and attacked law enforcers, those people committed serious offences and are to be punished under law."

"There can be no dialogue with them, and I am sure there won’t be any," he stressed.

The Kremlin spokesman explained why President Vladimir Putin had drawn parallels between some of the protesters and terrorists. The president said on Monday that it was a terrorists’ tactic to use women and children as a shield. "Don’t you know that terrorists use women and children as a shield? Indeed, they do it. Let us not forget that we have lived through many such cases during the sad days of our country’s history," Peskov said. "It is very bad when children are provoked to take part in such actions [unauthorized rallies - TASS]."

"Regrettably, there are children among those detained during these rallies. Generally speaking, children don’t understand what such rallies are about and most likely it was mere curiosity, an absolutely absurd drive to take part in a rowdy party," he said, adding that it is necessary to "simply explain to children how dangerous it is."

"We saw quite a lot of provokers among the so-called protesters. And many felt their direct physical impacts. Many law enforcers felt it. We all remember a driver who lost his eye because of these ‘peaceful protesters,’" the Kremlin spokesman said. "It is very dangerous. The president spoke about that. Those who provoke children to later hide behind them are terrorists. Those who joined the illegal rally are law breakers."

According to Peskov, it is wrong to say that the authorities in Russia are seeking to "narrow the legal space" for expression of views. "Indeed, methods of expressing views through various actions are seriously regulated by law in many world nations. It has only one goal - to ensure law, order and public security. This is the basic function of any state," he said. "So, it in no way means that there are no formats for expressing one’s opinion or they are being narrowed. The top priority task is to ensure security and public order."