Category Archives: Sovietization

‘Stalin Buses’, Soviet Tanks and Military Parades Celebrate Dictator’s Victory at Stalingrad

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Five coaches bearing portraits of the moustachioed dictator have been allowed to operate in ‘Stalingrad’ (Victory Bus)

Volgograd renamed Stalingrad to celebrate key WWII battle against Nazis in 1943

ibtimes.co.uk | Feb 1, 2013

By Umberto Bacchi

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of a key World War II victory Russian lawmakers have renamed Volgograd as Stalingrad (Vicory Bus)

On Saturday, visitors to Volgograd are to experience a trip back in time of 60 years as buses painted with images of Joseph Stalin are driven around the southwestern Russian city, temporally renamed Stalingrad in honour of the Communist dictator who more than any other moulded the Soviet Union.

A military parade led by an old T-34 Soviet tank will also rally in the city centre.

Russian city gets to play ‘Stalin wasn’t so bad’ six days a year

Stalin gets his city back as Russians celebrate dictator’s triumph over Nazis

‘Stalin buses’ to mark 70th anniversary of Battle of Stalingrad in Russia

On 2 February, 1943, the Red Army won the decisively battle of Stalingrad, turning back Nazi forces after about six months of fighting.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the key World War II victory, regional lawmakers decided to use the city’s Communist-era name in for the day and on other key anniversaries through the year.

Five coaches bearing portraits of the moustachioed dictator will operate as part of the “Victory Bus” initiative.

It is a controversial move. Nostalgics credit him with leading the country to victory in World War II and making it a world superpower but to many others he is a hate figure for his genocide of millions of fellow countrymen and for his repressive regime.

“It’s blasphemous to rename the great Russian city after a bloody tyrant who killed millions of his fellow citizens,” said Nikolai Levichev a senior federal lawmaker with the leftist Just Russia party.

“This is an insult to the memory of those who died,” Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told Interfax news agency.

The city was renamed Volgograd in 1961 as part of the Soviet Union’s rejection of the Stalin personality cult.

“Our people won under the lead of Joseph Stalin and there is nothing about our supreme commander to be ashamed of,” reads a statement by the Victory Bus.

“We don’t paint swastikas. Thank God, Communist ideology and Stalin’s image have not been officially condemned. We only urge the preservation of memory of the WWII victory and people who contributed to it,” organiser Aleksey Roerich told Izvestia.

Roerich said the buses are from private firms funded by the Communist party and private donors.

The so-called “Stalinobuses” will operate in Volgograd until 9 May when Russia celebrates the final victory of the so-called Great Patriotic War. Stalin’s image will also appear on vehicles in the streets of St Petersburg and Chita.

Stalin led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953.

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Couple faces $97K in fines for using their own driveway

is this america
A sign at the entrance to PennyRoyal Self Storage. Howard and Lisa Gray had permission to use their residential driveway in Warren County to get to garages and storage facilities on the Montgomery County portion of their land….Still the couple is facing contempt of court charges and civil fines for the third time in a five-year dispute over continued access with Clearcreek Township officials, responding to complaints from neighbors. Image: Jim Witmer

middletownjournal.com | Dec 1, 2012

By Lawrence Budd

CLEARCREEK TWP., Warren County — The six-year dispute between Clearcreek Twp. and Howard and Lisa Gray shows just how complicated, combative and costly local land use issues can become.

The Grays obtained permission from a Clearcreek Twp. official to use their residential driveway in Warren County to get to buildings on the Montgomery County portion of their land. The buildings house the Grays’ storage and landscaping businesses.

But following complaints from neighbors, Clearkcreek Twp. ordered the couple to stop using the driveway to access their commercial area. A judge subsequently issued an order to that effect.

The Grays say they have no other feasible way to get to that land, and they now face contempt of court charges and nearly $100,000 in potential fines for resisting court orders.

“We are just confounded,” Lisa Gray said. “I am just very saddened.”

Said attorney Jill Mead in a court filing Monday on behalf of Clearcreek Twp.: “We realize that, several years ago, (the Grays) were given bad advice. That in no way excuses their current behavior, which is to continuously ignore and, in fact, thumb their noses at the court’s orders.”

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Michael and Howard Gray stand in front of a sign prohibiting the use of their driveway to get to to garages and storage buildings on a section of their land in Montgomery County. Lawrence Budd

The dispute

The Grays live at 2248 Pennyroyal Road, west of Ohio 741 on the extreme northern edge of Warren County in Clearcreek Twp., a traditionally rural community where home-based businesses are common and generally accepted. Their commercial land in Montgomery County’s Miami Twp. is just inside a special commercial zone established in anticipation of development around the new Interstate 75 interchange at Austin Boulevard.

Homes, some on multi-acre lots, surround the Grays’ land on the east, south and west. Commercial properties and a church border the Grays’ land to the north.

In 2004, the Grays say they invested about $300,000 in the garages and storage buildings on about three acres of their land in Montgomery County after receiving assurance from Clearcreek Twp. Planning and Zoning Director Jeff Palmer that access would be permitted via the long driveway leading off Pennyroyal Road to their home.

In 2006, after complaints from neighbors about noise, dirt and traffic, the township notified the Grays they would have to quit using the driveway to get to their commercial buildings. The Grays had added a landscaping business, worsening traffic and noise problems, according to the township.

During this time, the township’s population exploded, doubling to nearly 40,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

In 2009, the township filed a lawsuit in Warren County, asking the court to deny the Grays access to their Montgomery County land via the driveway.

The township determined the Grays’ businesses failed to qualify as a home business in part because equipment involved in the business is stored outside the Gray’s home, one of two residences on the couple’s Warren County land, Mead said.

“The township’s policy is that legitimate home occupations are acceptable. If a commercial enterprise is being run on a residential property and does not qualify as a home occupation, it is unacceptable. Generally speaking, the township responds to complaints,” Mead said in an email.

Since 2005 Clearcreek Twp. officials have responded to 18 inquires about business operations in residential areas, according to township records.

Disputes goes to court

The Grays continued to use the driveway and filed counterclaims against Palmer and the township. They also failed to fully comply with orders issued by Warren County Common Pleas Judge James Flannery.

With reservations, Flannery issued the first in a series of rulings last year that prohibited the Grays from accessing their commercial property via the driveway. Flannery also rejected the Grays’ request for compensation for loss of the driveway’s use.

“If the court had equitable power to grant the relief sought by the Grays, it would do so. However, the court has taken an oath to enforce the law as written and not to legislate different results based solely on sympathy towards the affected parties,” Flannery wrote in a March 2011 ruling.

Flannery ruled the Grays were not entitled to compensation because they sought, but were denied, a variance by the township zoning board to continue using the driveway.

Orders call for the Grays to pay for a fence and entry system controlling access to the Montgomery County tract and assist the township in moving out about 50 storage tenants.

The judge also ordered the Grays to take down a sign advertising the storage business. The Grays complied, but installed another sign in protest.

“Is this America? Clearcreek Twp. and their courts have closed our family business after they approved it six years ago. Our American Dream has been turned into an American Red Tape Nightmare,” the sign reads.

Instead of paying the township to hire a contractor to build the fence, Howard Gray hired his own contractor.

“What’s the difference on the fence? It’s going to be locked,” he said.

Since then, Flannery and lawyers for the township and the Grays have worked out agreements to close the driveway at the Montgomery County line and clear the storage units. Still, the Grays are resisting in word and deed.

“I’ve been here since 2004,” Gray said. “They’re actually taking my land.”

The Grays could access the property by negotiating an easement or purchasing land from private landowners on the Montgomery County side, but an agreement seems unlikely due to the distance to a road.

The Grays’ lawyer, Andrew George, said the Grays deserve compensation.

“All of this stems from a government mistake. It’s up to the government to fix that,” George said.

Possible fines, costs

This week, Mead urged Flannery to find the Grays in contempt of court, which could trigger as much as $97,000 in fines.

Mead is the third lawyer to represent the township and Palmer in the dispute. Mead took the case in July and has billed the township $7,500 through Nov. 6. County prosecutors and lawyers retained through township insurance provided other representation at no additional charge.

If they comply, the Grays are expected to cover most or all of Mead’s fees, the cost of the fence and other expenses. Those costs total more than $13,000.

No hearing has been scheduled on the township’s contempt-of-court request against the Grays.

Communist Chinese conglomerate buys AMC to form world’s largest cinema chain


Under the new U.S.-China deal, more IMAX or 3D films are being allowed into China

CNN | May 21, 2012

By Kevin Voigt

(CNN) — China’s Dalian Wanda Group and AMC Entertainment announced Monday a $2.6 billion deal to take over the U.S. theater group, forming the world’s largest cinema chain, according to a new release on the deal.

The move is the latest in a raft of deals between U.S. entertainment companies and Chinese firms, linking the world’s largest theater market with the world’s fastest growing.

“This acquisition will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner, with theatres and technology that enhance the movie-going experience for audiences in the world’s two largest movie markets,” said Wang Jianlin, chairman and president of Wanda.

Wanda, a private company that previously operated solely in China, generates $16.7 billion in annual revenue from its commercial development and entertainment businesses, the company said. The group owns 86 theaters with 730 screens in China.

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“As the film and exhibition business continues its global expansion, the time has never been more opportune to welcome the enthusiastic support of our new owners,” said Gerry Lopez, chief executive officer and president of AMC.

AMC operates 346 multiplex theaters, largely in North America, with a total of 5,034 screens. Headquarters of AMC, a privately held company, will remain in the Kansas City area and day-to-day operations, including the process for film programming, will remain unchanged, the release said.

In a deal last February, China agreed to increase the quota of 20 foreign films per year — most of them from the U.S. — to add an additional 14 IMAX or 3D films each year, and nearly doubled the cut foreign film companies can take from Chinese box office to 25%.

In April, The Walt Disney Company China, Marvel Studios and DMG Entertainment of Beijing announced a production deal in which “Iron Man 3” will be co-produced in China. That follows the February announced that a $330 million joint venture between DreamWorks Animation, China Media Capital (CMC) and two other Chinese companies to establish a China-focused family entertainment company, Oriental DreamWorks.

Last month came revelations, first reported by Reuters, that the Securities and Exchange Commission sent inquiries to 20th Century Fox, Disney and DreamWorks about whether Hollywood studios were paying bribes to get a foothold in the China theater market.

Russia tests its own ‘heat ray’ cannon for for combatting internal “mass disorder”


The US Active Denial System. The appearance of the Russian heat ray cannon is currently being kept under wraps (AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)

RT | Apr 25, 2012

After a wave of increasingly bombastic rhetoric promising military modernization, Russia has unveiled one concrete project. It is a non-lethal heat ray, similar to the US Active Denial System.

The as-yet-unnamed weapon “will emit a high-frequency electro-magnetic ray. It will cause unbearable pain, but no damage to internal organs,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Soskov, who is involved in developing the device.

The ray uses a similar operating principle to a microwave oven, which itself borrowed its technology from World War II military radars. The focused electro-magnetic radiation can reach a target up to 300 meters away, is not affected by smoke or dust in its way, does not damage clothes, and takes only a few seconds to warm up to uncomfortable levels for human skin, says Soskov.

With the right mirrors to deflect the ray, it could be fired from around corners, and inside buildings. The official said, the device is light enough to be fitted to a van or military jeep.

Affecting only the very top layer of the skin, it only hurts, but does not damage.

Soskov said the weapon can be used for crowd and territory control during peacekeeping, or in counter-insurgency missions. He also said the weapon could be adopted by Russian police for combatting internal “mass disorder.”

The ray is currently undergoing testing at a military research institute outside Moscow.

­Following in the footsteps of failure?

Although Russian military researchers trumpeted the heat ray as a “unique development,” it appears to be very similar to the US Active Denial System.

The US military has spent more than $120 million on the weapon, and says it has been tested on eleven thousand willing volunteers. Only last month, several US officials willingly submitted to the ray during an official unveiling, to stop swirling rumors about the system’s potential danger.

Yet despite being cleared for use in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2010, the Active Denial System does not appear to ever have actually been used.

Critics of the ray say it is a cumbersome device – taking too much time to set up and direct towards its target.

Many have also questioned whether extreme pain is a legitimate means of quelling protest, and wondered what happens when it is directed at a target that cannot move in time, for example a protester in a packed crowd. Supporters of the heat ray say it represents an improvement over the truncheons, tear gas and rubber bullets currently used by riot police around the world.

Russia is expected to reveal more new-generation weapons, as Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin presented a military strategy that looks “30-40 years into the future.” The nature of these weapons is unclear, but in his pre-election article President-elect Vladimir Putin said future conflicts “will be won using weapons with new means of delivery, such as ray, geophysical, wave, genetic and psychotronic weapons.

Hotline Renews Hope For Victims Of Police Torture


“Finally, society realized that there really is a problem with this,” says rights lawyer Ilnur Sharapov, shown here answering the torture hotline in the offices of Agora in central Moscow.

rferl.org | Apr 12, 2012

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW — Yelena Isaulova says she’s lucky to be alive.

Two police officers in the southern Russian town of Pyatigorsk took the then-46-year-old mother of two into custody, where she says they repeatedly beat her head, arms, and legs while she was handcuffed.

Isaulova adds that her “glassy-eyed” captors would have tortured her to death if a third police officer had not intervened.

“My skin was scraped off, my hands were all bruised and beaten, and so were my wrists because they hung me up by my handcuffs,” she says. “Then they drove me to the nearby river and said, ‘We’ll smash your head in, plant drugs on you, and throw you in the river and you’ll float away and no one will ever come looking for you.'”

Six years have passed since that day, but there has been no investigation. Isaulova says her appeals have simply been ignored.

Nationwide Anger

Isaulova’s horrific story might never have come to light were it not for a new nationwide hotline based in Moscow that logs cases of alleged police torture and provides legal support for victims.

Isaulova is among scores of Russian citizens who, in the space of three weeks, have appealed to the Agora human rights organization, recounting tales of police abuse — some of them nearly a decade old. Many who are now calling the hotline say they had previously feared filing official complaints or were ignored when they did.

But that feeling of helplessness appears to be changing in the wake of the nationwide anger that erupted over the brutal murder in police custody of 52-year-old Sergei Nazarov in Kazan last month.

Since then, dozens of victims who have kept their grief, anger, and shame quiet for years have been inspired to go public and seek support from organizations like Agora.

Ilnur Sharapov of Agora says police torture has always been prevalent but that the public’s passivity finally reached the breaking point when Nazarov was tortured to death after allegedly being sodomized with a bottle.

“This case was simply so cruel and awful,” Sharapov says. “There was a boil that had long been growing and growing and finally it burst. Finally, society realized that there really is a problem with this.”

Calls Pouring In

Sharapov, an ethnic Tatar lawyer who mans the phone in Agora’s small three-person office in Moscow’s upscale Chistie Prudy district, says he has personally logged 88 concrete cases of police torture. He says he has taken calls day and night from 31 Russian regions — stretching from Sakhalin on the Pacific coast to Krasnodar on the Black Sea to Murmansk in the Arctic Circle.

In a sign of the success of the hotline, Sharapov says four regional law enforcement bodies — in Sverdlovsk, Kurgansk, Moscow, and Krasnodar — requested that relevant information be sent to them.

A Moscow police spokesperson said investigators were “studying the statements” of those who have called the Agora hotline.

Additionally, on April 4, Agora handed 107 cases of alleged police torture to Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin.

If Sharapov establishes that a claim is valid, he requests that victims send him documents and other evidence. If he has time, he gives brief legal consultation himself and then forwards the documents to Agora’s regional lawyers, who take the case from there.

Trends Of Abuse

If Agora has no local lawyers in a particular region, they dispatch a legal team on a temporary basis.

This was the case in Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals region, where Agora logged 13 accusations of police abuse, according to Dmitry Kolbasin, another Agora employee. The organization is sending a team of four lawyers to the regional capital, Yekaterinburg, to consult with alleged victims on a walk-in basis.

Sharapov says trends are already emerging that illustrate why police abuse is so prevalent.

Russian police officers are required to meet monthly quotas of arrests and detentions, a practice that critics say results in officers forcibly extracting confessions based on trumped-up charges.

“The majority of the people who have come forward said that they were tortured so that they confessed to crimes they did not commit,” Sharapov says.

Local media and social networks are rife with such cases.

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Putin targets foes with ‘zombie’ gun which attacks victims’ central nervous system


Fire: Putin, seen using a traditional pistol, has new weapons in his sights

Could be used against Russia’s enemies and perhaps its own dissidents

Daily Mail | Mar 31, 2012

By Christopher Leake and Will Stewart

Mind-bending ‘psychotronic’ guns that can effectively turn people into zombies have been given the go-ahead by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The futuristic weapons – which will attack the central nervous system of their victims – are being developed by the country’s scientists.

They could be used against Russia’s enemies and, perhaps, its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

Sources in Moscow say Mr Putin has described the guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as ‘entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals’.

Mr Putin added: ‘Such high-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons, but will be more acceptable in terms of political and military ideology.’

Plans to introduce the super- weapons were announced quietly last week by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov, fulfilling  a little-noticed election campaign pledge by president-elect Putin.

Mr Serdyukov said: ‘The development  of weaponry based on new physics principles – direct-energy weapons, geophysical weapons, wave-energy weapons, genetic weapons, psychotronic weapons, and so on – is part  of the state arms procurement programme for 2011-2020.’

Specific proposals on developing the weapons are due to be drawn  up before December by a new Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Research into electromagnetic weapons has been secretly carried out in the US and Russia since the Fifties. But now it appears Mr Putin has stolen a march on the Americans. Precise details of the Russian gun have not been revealed. However, previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone’s thought processes.

High doses of microwaves can damage the functioning of internal organs, control behaviour or even drive victims to suicide. Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecasting Centre in Moscow, said: ‘This is a highly serious weapon.

‘When it was used for dispersing a crowd and it was focused on a man, his body temperature went up immediately as if he was thrown into a hot frying pan. Still, we know very little about this weapon and even special forces guys can hardly cope with it.’

The long-term effects are not known, but two years ago a former major in the Russian foreign intelligence agency, the GRU, died in Scotland after making claims about such a weapons programme to MI6.

Sergei Serykh, 43, claimed he was a victim of weapons which he said were ‘many times more powerful than in the Matrix films’.

Mr Serykh died after falling from a Glasgow tower block with his wife and stepson in March 2010. While his death was assumed to be suicide, his family fear there was foul play.

Last night the Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

Grisly death fuels tales of Russian police torture


Human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov attends a news conference in Moscow, March 27, 2012. The news conference was dedicated to recent acts of police brutality in the Republic of Tatarstan, including an incident in Kazan in which a suspect under examination presumably died after officers sodomized him with a bottle of champagne earlier in March, according to local media. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Reuters |Apr 5, 2012

By Jennifer Rankin

KAZAN, Russia | Albert Zagitov had barely set up his new fruit and vegetable stall at the bustling Volga market in the Russian city of Kazan when he was told by a stranger to pack up and go.

After he refused, he was taken to a police car and driven to a police station where he says four officers took turns to hit him in the head and chest and threatened to rape him.

“As soon as we sat in the car, they started behaving very cruelly, swearing at me and calling me names,” said Zagitov, a Russian born in the Tatarstan region of which Kazan is the capital.

“The threats were real. I was full of fear and in shock that this was happening,” he told Reuters, his words pouring out quickly as he recalled the events of last July.

He was freed six hours later with an aching head, battered ribs and a charge of petty hooliganism.

But looking back at the encounter, Zagitov, a 33-year-old father of one, can count himself lucky to have survived.

Last month Sergei Nazarov, an unemployed man of 52, was detained at the same police station on the same charge. The day after his arrest on March 9, Nazarov was taken to hospital with abdominal pains. He died less than 24 hours later.

Before slipping into a coma, he told relatives he had been beaten by four police officers and sodomized with a champagne bottle.

His death has caused outrage across Russia and sparked protests in Kazan, a more than 1,000-year-old city on the Volga River 750 km (470 miles) east of Moscow which prides itself on tolerance of its diverse ethnic population and many religions.

Police have charged five officers over the case, and investigators are re-opening previously “closed” cases where complaints were made, including Zagitov’s.

PROBLEM FOR PUTIN

Nazarov’s death has put the spotlight on police lawlessness and brutality as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prepares to start a six-year term as president in May, increasing demands for him to carry out reforms to strengthen the rule of law that have been demanded during four months of anti-Putin protests.

Angered by Nazarov’s case, about 100 people chanted “shame on the police” at a protest on a recent Saturday in Kazan’s Freedom Square, where well-maintained buildings including the regional government’s headquarters look down on a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin.

“Once we learned about what had happened in the Kazan police station, we understood that it concerned all of us – in Moscow, in Krasnodar, in Chita and Sakhalin,” Lev Ponomaryov, a human-rights campaigner, told the protesters.

“Because if no one is punished, these crimes will happen in other places. Indeed they are happening.”

Pop music blared from a dark blue van parked nearby bearing the logo of Putin’s United Russia party, and about 20 members of a pro-Putin youth movement gathered on another part of the square, hoping to distract attention from the protest.

Relatives say Nazarov had committed no crime and did not know what the petty hooliganism charge was for although the police, who have denied mistreating him, said he had been accused of stealing a mobile phone.

The relatives have dismissed suggestions by the police that he was drunk and disorderly. Contacted by phone, Nazarov’s brother declined to be interviewed.

TEST CASE

Kazan’s image for tolerance has been badly damaged. The city of more than 1 million, which was conquered by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, has long portrayed itself as an example of harmony between Muslims, Christians, Russians and Tatars.

The turquoise-tipped minarets of a new mosque and the 16th-century onion-domed cathedral inside Kazan’s white-walled Kremlin are meant to embody this mingling of cultures.

In the historic city centre, modish coffee bars and a gleaming shopping centre stand alongside mosques and churches, while the outskirts are dominated by Soviet-era high rise buildings and heavy traffic.

Kazan’s leaders like to trumpet its independence from Moscow although Putin won 83 percent of votes in the March 4 presidential election.

Yet the city felt the strong hand of Moscow when federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev fired the head of the city’s Dalny police station where Nazarov and Zagitov were taken into custody and accused officers there of betraying the force.

In addition to the five officers charged over Nazarov’s case, a federal investigative committee is examining 28 other complaints against the Kazan police. The allegations include reports of torture such as sexual abuse, beatings, electric shock treatment and forced confessions for invented offences.

Russia’s Public Chamber, an official body that analyses draft laws, is examining a book by the regional interior minister, Asgat Safarov, in which he is reported to advocate using the “most painful methods” to combat organized crime.

Nazarov’s death is seen by human rights activists as a test case of how far the Kremlin and government are prepared to go to carry out promises to wipe out abuses of power by the police.

“The issue of police torture has been huge in this country for many years now,” Tatiana Lokshina, deputy director of the Moscow office of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said.

Only the glare of publicity sets this case apart from many more across the country, rights activists say.

“This case has attracted so much attention because the level of brutality, the level of atrocity, is staggering,” Lokshina said.

“The problem has been there for a very long time. We want to make sure the official rhetoric, triggered by the nightmarish case in Kazan, results in concrete steps towards improving the current situation.”

TALES OF TORTURE AND ABUSE

Svetlana Kolyakanova recounted how her brother was “cruelly beaten” and tortured with electric shocks to his genitals, the palms of his hands and soles of his feet, after being arrested in April last year by Kazan police.

“After we talked to him he cried and told us he could not take any more. The whole day they had tortured him with electric shocks. He signed all the confessions they wanted him to sign.”

Irina Muratova, a lawyer representing local victims, said the police used such methods to achieve a 100 percent crime detection rate.

A Kazan policeman also told a Russian newspaper that the police used special methods to extract confessions.

“If we know that a person is guilty but we don’t have proof for the court – a gun, a body or other evidence – then harsher interrogation methods are allowed,” the officer, identified only as Yuri, told Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper in an interview.

The alleged ringleader of the abuse with bottles was a veteran of Russia’s war against separatists in the Chechnya region of southern Russia which had left him with psychological problems, said Pavel Chikov of human rights group Agora.

Other cases of sexual abuse against officers at the Dalny police station were long ignored, rights activists say.

Oskar Krylov, a 22-year old administrator, says he was sodomised with a champagne bottle and a pencil by Kazan police last October but his case was going nowhere before Nazarov died.

“I complained to the courts, but until Nazarov no one paid any attention,” he told Reuters.

Tatarstan’s investigative committee has long ignored people’s rights, Igor Vselov, a rights activist, said during the Kazan protest, where people gathered around a three-foot (metre) high box of complaints to underscore this point.

“The investigative committee of Tatarstan represents the interests of the government and big business,” he said.

The criticism is not only from the streets. Russia’s deputy prosecutor general, Sergei Zaitsev, accused Tatarstan’s investigators of “serious shortcomings” at a meeting with the region’s president and other senior officials on Monday.

His investigations had revealed 66 “hidden” crimes by police, mostly theft, he told the meeting. He said he had received 417 complaints from citizens, 65 involving violence.

Contacted for comment, a spokesman for Russia’s Interior Ministry said that an investigation was under way which would show “what (happened), and who (was involved) and how”.

He added that the Kazan courts were dealing with suspects, but declined to comment at greater length beyond Nurgaliyev’s public statements. The chief spokesperson for Tatarstan’s ministry of internal affairs could not immediately be reached, and a subordinate declined to comment.

MEDVEDEV’S REFORM ATTEMPTS

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s outgoing president, introduced a police law in 2010 that sought to tighten standards and weed out violent and corrupt officers.

But critics say the law did little more than change the name of the force from the Soviet-era “militsiya” to “politsiya” – militia to police.

“More than two years of reforms have not led to any qualitative changes,” said Natalia Taubina, director of the Public Verdict Foundation, an organization that offers legal help to victims of human rights abuses by the police.

There have been a few notable cases of action being taken against the police. The police chief of St Petersburg, Russia’s second city, was fired this year after a 15-year-old detainee, Mikhail Leontyev, died in police custody.

But official figures show only 4,000 criminal cases were opened against police in 2010 although 125,000 complaints of violations were registered by Russia’s Interior Ministry.

RALLYING POINT FOR OPPOSITION?

Opposition leaders say demands for police reform are important for many Russians, and particularly those who took part in anti-Putin protests in Moscow that attracted tens of thousands of people between December and March.

Although Nazarov’s death has prompted protests in Kazan, Rashit Akhmetov, one of the protest organizers, said that official pressure had frightened people away. Students, he said, had been told by their university not to protest.

“But people sitting in their apartments, they don’t sympathize with the authorities. They sympathize with the people on the streets,” he said.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has dismissed suggestions there will now be a police shake-up. Talk of new police reform was “absurd”, he told current affairs magazine Itogi.

“It is not worth the government rushing to begin a new reform without completing the last one,” he said.

But Putin should be careful, opposition groups say, because combating police brutality is one of the issues that could rally the disparate groups involved in the widespread protests sparked by alleged fraud in December’s parliamentary election.

“The potential of civil society has grown dramatically in the last few months,” Taubina said.

“Police reform – qualitative reforms, not cosmetic reforms – is one point on the agenda that could unite many of these movements that have formed in the past few months.”