Moscow: Russian riot police have beaten up the head of a prominent rights group and the leader of a liberal opposition party as they evicted the rights organisation from its Moscow offices on Saturday, both men said.
In a dramatic raid that started yesterday afternoon and lasted into the early hours of today, dozens of men swept the offices of prominent rights group For Human Rights.
Leader Lev Ponomaryov, 71, accused the police and men in plain clothes of assaulting him during the raid.
"They kicked me, dragged me across the floor and then threw me out onto the street," Ponomaryov told a news agency.
"They kicked me in the kidney," he said. "They dragged me headfirst down the stairs," he said, adding he had returned home at 6 am after receiving first aid for multiple bruises.
They were also accused of assaulting Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of liberal opposition party Yabloko, who showed up at the offices in support of the embattled group`s dispute with the Moscow authorities over rent.
Ponomoryov said he had had a long-running dispute with the Mayor`s office which claims the group has not paid for its central Moscow offices and has to vacate them.
Both said that when they refused to leave, the men raiding the offices changed the locks on the doors, assaulted them and threw them out on the street in the middle of the night.
Mitrokhin, who plans to run against incumbent pro-Kremlin Moscow mayor in polls this fall, also received injuries when he was kicked down the stairs, he told a news agency.
"His pant leg was stained in blood from the knee down," his aide Sophya Rusova said, adding he also had to receive treatment for his injuries.
Over the past months Russian authorities have raided hundreds of non-profit groups including For Human Rights as part of a major crackdown prompted by a controversial new law requiring NGOs that receive international donations to register as "foreign agents."
The raid came as President Vladimir Putin sought to allay foreign investors` concerns about the arbitrariness of the rule of law in the country during an international economic forum in Saint Petersburg.