**How one Russian became an object lesson for all would-be protesters **
Denis Lutskevich was not an activist, he just wanted to see the 2012 protests against Putin’s re-election. But he, along with two dozen others, served three and a half years in prison for doing so.
Moscow — For those who paid close attention to the protests on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration almost four years ago, Denis Lutskevich might stir a memory. Though just one of some 600 people arrested that day in May 2012, Mr. Lutskevich stood out more than most thanks to images of him being arrested, shirtless with his back covered in red welts shaped like police truncheons.
But the rangy, now-20-something ex-marine wasn’t an activist. He says he and his friends only went to the protests to “see what was happening.” Indeed, none of the voluminous video and photographic evidence from the scene shows him committing any acts of violence. Nonetheless, Lutskevich was singled out for committing “mass disorders” and “using force against representatives of the state,” for which he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
But the recently released Lutskevich’s case, and those of more than two dozen others convicted of serious crimes against the state arising from the protests, is the source of intense ongoing debate in Russia. Critics argue that the cases were ginned up by state prosecutors to make examples of ordinary Russians from various walks of life rather than hardened street activists – so that all Russians would heed a tacit Kremlin warning that protests of any stripe would not be tolerated.
“People were chosen from various age groups, social status, and professions in order that every Russian could recognize himself behind the bars in that courtroom,” says Sergei Davidis, a human rights lawyer who has defended opposition figures. “The relative guilt or innocence of any particular defendant was irrelevant. It was intended as a deterrent to the whole society, and the message was clear: go to a protest rally, and this can be you.”
Perhaps an oversight that I could not readily find RT covering this.