Moscow police officers sanctioned by EU over ‘torture’ of women

Two Moscow police officers have been sanctioned by the European Union for the torture of female anti-war protesters as part of its programme to “eliminate all forms of violence against women”. The sanctions, which coincided with International Women’s Day, were applied to nine people and three institutions, including the Russian officers, Taliban ministers and officials from South Sudan and Myanmar. The two police officers were able to evade justice for months as Russia appeared to turn a blind eye to the crimes, arguing there was “insufficient evidence” to warrant an investigation despite an audio recording, taken by one of the survivors, revealing that Ryabov had screamed at her: “I [will] take off my boot and smash you on the head with it.”

Announcing the sanctions in a statement, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Police Josep Borrell said the EU was moving “from words to action” in its commitment to “eliminate all forms of violence of violence against women”.

The Union accused Ivan Ryabov and Alexander Fedorinov of “arbitrary arrests and detentions as well as torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the context of the censorship and oppression led by the Russian authorities”.

Ryabov’s identity was unknown for months while the eleven survivors were unable to find a name on the police database.

A fortnight into their search, however, a massive data leak from the popular Russian food delivery app Yandex Food offered them a glimpse of hope.

They raked through the data to see if any food orders had been placed to Brateyevo police station over the past year, discovering there were nine different customers.

They were looking for the police officer they had dubbed the “man in black”.

After more dead ends, they stumbled on a man called Ivan, whose phone number had been leaked. Searching through the trail left by his phone number, they found a classified advert for a Skoda Rapid car sold 10 minutes’ drive from Brateyevo police station, posted in 2018.

The advertisement included Ivan’s surname, Ryabov, and subsequent social media searches showing his pictures concluded their attempts to find the man. His face was instantly recognisable.

Marina, 22, showed in her secret audio recordings that she was shouted at and kicked by Ryabov for 14 minutes, while a pistol was held in her face.

Anastasia, 19, said Ryabov beat her over the head with a water bottle, emptied its contents over her, and then pulled a plastic bag over her soaking head, where he held it against her nose and mouth for 30-40 seconds at a time.

After the success of their first search, the young women wanted to pursue another officer who they called the “man in beige”.

He had not been involved in the abuse, according to Anastasia, but “all communication took place through him”.

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Using facial recognition on a short video captured inside the police station, the BBC, as part of an EYE investigation, was able to name the man as Alexander Fedorinov.

At that time, he was the acting head of the Brateyevo police department.

As of 7 March 2023, both men are now subject to an asset freeze and travel ban within the EU.

Anastasia told the BBC that the year since her arrest has not been easy. “But Ryabov’s inclusion on the sanctions list only strengthens my belief that I did and said the right thing,” she said.

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