Two Moscow police officers identified by the BBC as perpetrators of abuses against female anti-war protesters have been sanctioned by the EU.
The EU accused Ivan Ryabov and Alexander Fedorinov of arbitrary arrest and torture.
They were among nine people and three institutions sanctioned over sexual and gender-based violence, to coincide with International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
Others included Taliban ministers and officials from South Sudan and Myanmar.
A BBC Eye investigation detailed how Ivan Ryabov was identified by protesters who had been physically abused by him when they were detained in March 2022.
Alexander Fedorinov was identified by the BBC using facial recognition software.
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”.
He said the sanctions were “enhancing efforts to counter sexual and gender-based violence, to ensure that those responsible are fully accountable for their actions, and to combat impunity”.
The two Moscow police officers were sanctioned for their role in “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”.
On 6 March last year, a group of anti-war protesters were arrested and taken to Moscow’s Brateyevo police station. There, at least 11 detainees – mostly young women – were subjected to physical abuse at the hands of a plainclothes police officer.
The officer didn’t give his name, and there was no record of him on any police websites. The protesters felt they had little chance in identifying their abuser, who they called the “man in black”.
That was until a huge data leak from the popular Russian food delivery app, Yandex Food, provided the breakthrough they needed.
Anastasia – who says she had been suffocated with a plastic bag by the “man in black” – trawled through the data and found only nine users who had ordered food to Brateyevo police station. Working with the other victims, she searched the names and phone numbers included in the leak, looking for pictures she recognised.
Finally she came across a face that was imprinted in her memory – it was the “man in black” and his name was Ivan Ryabov.
Anastasia also wanted to identify another officer who was present that evening and refused to give his name. The detainees had called him the “man in beige”.
Although he wasn’t involved in the abuse of protesters, Anastasia felt he was somehow in charge. “All communication took place through him,” she said.
Using facial recognition on a short video captured inside the police station, the BBC was able to name the man as Alexander Fedorinov. At that time, he was the acting head of the Brateyevo police department.
Despite appeals mentioning Ryabov and Fedorinov, sent to Russian authorities from victims and a Moscow politician, there was no evidence that either of the men had faced any repercussions inside Russia. The BBC did not receive a response after contacting the two men for comment in August 2022.
But 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.
Anastasia has left Russia and says she is happy to be in a country where she isn’t afraid to share her anti-war views on social media.
Ivan Ryabov and Alexander Fedorinov were sanctioned alongside two acting Taliban ministers – Neda Mohammad Nadeem and Muhammad Khalid Hanafi – responsible for the decrees which banned women from higher education in Afghanistan.
The list also included high-ranking members of the Russian armed forces whose units systematically participated in acts of sexual and gender-based violence in Ukraine in March and April last year.
It also named two South Sudanese officials, who according to the EU had commanded government militias which used sexual violence as a tactic of war and a reward for the men under their command.
And the EU also sanctioned Major-General Toe Ui, Myanmar’s deputy minister of home affairs, along with the country’s Office of the Chief of Military Security Affairs (OCMSA), where he was formerly second-in-command. OCMSA is accused of using sexual violence and torture against men, women and members of the LGBT community.
The other institutions sanctioned were Qarchak Prison in Iran, where pro-democracy protestors have been detained, and the Syrian Republican Guard, which is accused of using widespread sexual and gender-based violence to repress and intimidate the Syrian people.
Source – BBC News