“This is just a rehearsal!” Policemen accused of beating Nizhny Novgorod resident threaten to plant drugs on him
Nizhny Novgorod region resident Ivan Belov suffered numerous injuries, eyesight problems, blackmail, threats, and a search, and had to hastily move to another town after having interacted with local police officers. They violently beat and humiliated him, then forced him into their car trunk and took to a police station in April 2017. They then reminded him who sets the rules once they learned that he had testified against them.
Get ready, get set, crawl towards trunk!
In late April 2017, Belov and his friend Pavel Yakushev agreed to “help their friend carry a tractor part from a local wood processing facility. Yakushev and Belov claimed they did not know their friend was going to commit a crime. “I was asked to help and I agreed. I did not think twice about it. Pavel Yakushev and I had not yet met by then. We went there and carried the part to the gates,” Belov recollected.
“It has not been proved they were involved in the theft. Belov and Yakushev were considered witnesses. The judge convicted the instigator and stated the convict had not told anyone about his true intentions. He simply asked them to help him carry the part. It is an abandoned facility. One is not able to say right away what is there and who owns it,” Committee against Torture Inter-Regional NGO lawyer Vladimir Smirnov told The CrimeRussia.
The young men heard police officers scream when they were helping carry the part. They knew the officers; Vetluga is a small town with population of 8.5 thousand people where many residents know each other. Belov and Yakushev got scared and tried to flee, but the plain cloth officers soon got them, since they decided one should help their friends only when it is not against the law.
There were five police officers at the scene, according to the lawyer. Among them, Belov recognized officers Merlugov and Smirnov. The officers tried explaining their view of the situation to the unlucky thieves. The officers claimed they ran after Belov and Yakushev shouting “this is police!” The victims claimed they silently caught up with them and began beating them.
Head of the Urensky Inter-District Office of Investigations Criminal Investigations Department, Anton Merlugov
“First, Merlugov dropped me face down and began beating form aback. Then, he rolled me over and began hitting my head and face. I asked him to stop; I started suffocating with blood. He grabbed me by the hair, pulled me up, and forced me to crawl to the road where officer Smirnov had been waiting for us. Merlugov found a stick, broke it by hitting my back with it, and ordered me to stand up and run along the road. He kept pushing and beating my legs until I fell. Then, they opened their trunk and ordered me to get inside,” Belov recalled.
Belov was taken to the police station in a Mitsubishi Lancer trunk.
Getting confession using board and heater
Pavel Yakushev who ran the other way did not get any more luck. He was caught by a plain cloth police officer with a police dog. The officer immediately called for backup. It was later revealed the officer lives nearby and is the police chief. Yakushev claimed he tripped over and fell into a ditch; police officer got him out of there and beat him. The police officer claimed Yakushev squirmed in the ditch for a while and got all his injuries there due to hitting the ice. Lawyer Smirnov does not believe in the officers’ account of what happened. “I saw Yakushev’s injuries; he had a huge head wound. I cannot imagine injuring yourself that badly in a ditch,” Smirnov said.
Yakushev was also taken to the police station, although not in a trunk but rather a regular police car. Yakushev claimed he was forced to name all people involved. To get Yakushev talking, Merlugov began beating him with a board. It did not help, so he unscrewed a heater and hit Yakushev with it.
Meanwhile, Belov sat in an adjacent room with another officer. He was questioned about who else was there. Rather than being tortured physically, he was tortured psychologically; Merlugov would enter the room every now and then, showing his boots stained with Yakushev’s blood, hinting at what Belov was in for unless he began talking.
Both Belov and Yakushev were released in the morning. They have never been convicted. Neither investigators nor the judge found proof they had been involved in the theft. Both were considered witnesses. Meanwhile, the instigator was convicted of an attempted theft and given 250 hours of community service.
So, nothing was stolen. There are two victims. Yakushev suffered two head wounds and multiple body wounds: a scratch and a bruise next to his left shoulder blade; an abdominal bruise; injured left middle finger; injured right wrist; a bruise on the left knee; an injured nail; injured first finger of the right wrist. Belov suffered a bruise, a swollen eye, an ear bruise, bruises and scratches on the back. Belov claimed he began suffering from permanent eyesight problems after the officers hit him in the face. He suffered a retinal detachment and an epiretinal fibrosis, according to an ophthalmologist.
Threats, searches, and drugs. Witnesses get vodka bottle
This one-year-old story made the headlines once again not too long ago, despite Belov and Yakushev having filed a complaint with the ICR mere days after the incident. The ICR had nothing to show for its work until winter 2018 (half a year after the fact), when Belov was finally interviewed as a witness. The delay was due to red tape.
“In May 2017, we requested a number of inspections. Some of them have been carried out, while others are pending even to this day. For example, the crime scene is yet to be examined. I do not know why the incident is being investigated so poorly. It may be due to laziness or corruption; I have no idea,” Vladimir Smirnov said.
Law enforcement agencies were reluctant to launch the investigation to begin with for a long time. The Urensky Inter-District Office of Investigations illegally refused to launch the investigation on numerous occasions. The Office claimed the officers had not broken any law. However, it really helped get the process going when the Committee contacted Deputy Head of the ICR Directorate in the Nizhny Novgorod region Dmitry Kanonerov.
Deputy Head of the ICR Directorate in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Dmitry Kanonerov
Witness Belov got a visit from the police officers when at work once the investigation took off. They tried to press him into changing his testimony, dropping the accusations. Belov refused, saying he suffered permanent from permanent health issues after such an arrest. “In the morning, my colleagues told me Police Chief Nazarov was waiting for me outside. I stepped out and saw Nazarov and Makarov. They introduced themselves and suggested I got into their car. Makarov took my phone to make sure I was not recoding. They told me I had to drop the accusation and that they had been there when it happened and that they had meant no harm. Nazarov ended the conversation by saying that we lived in the same town and that no one knew what could happen. They suggested I think about what they had to say,” Belov said.
The officers gave him mere hours to ‘think’. They contacted him later that day and told him he had to go to the police station due to a complaint filed against him. When Belov got there, he learned that an anonymous person called the police saying Belov may have drugs.
Belov said it took the officers quite a while to find witnesses to search him. “Smirnov and Merlugov ended up bringing a man and a woman from the fringes of society. Officer Pavel Botkin told them that witnesses should be of the same sex that a searched suspect. We spent about half an hour more waiting. They finally found a man of a similar background. They began frisking me. Then, Merlugov asked me “Did you get it? It was a rehearsal. Next time we could very well end up finding something. So, let us do something about these charges of yours,” Belov recollected.
“Whatever we are called, be it militia or police, but the thing that makes it worth it is the people who serve in the force. They are all eager to do their job. Our young employees who had joined us between 2014 and 2015 – namely A. Yu. Merlugov and A. V. Smirnov – proved to be able officers. They successfully solved thefts and drugs offences,” Head of Urensky police station Nazarov (Vitluga) proudly wrote about his best officers on the OK.ru on the National Police Officer Day several years ago.
Belov lied, saying he dropped the accusation the same evening. He did it out of the fear for his life. The satisfied officers offered driving him back home. “Smirnov told the man and the woman, the two witnesses, to come to his home and plow the snow in exchange for a bottle of vodka. They drove another witness home; he lives near Merlugov. They told him the same; that he got to come the next day to get his payment – a bottle of vodka,” Belov recalled.
Head of the Urensky Inter-District Office of Investigations Community Police Office, Aleksandr Nazarov
Scared Belov quit his job and left the town the next day. However, he filed another complaint about an illegal arrest before leaving. He claimed that the whole police station looked for him after he had left, and that they questioned his friends and acquaintances trying to find him.
The criminal investigation for violation of article 286, part 3, item ‘a’ (Exceeding Official Powers with the Use of Violence) has been launched on March 3, 2018. Belov continues hiding in another town. The future will tell whether a performance will follow such a rehearsal.