Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a pre-investigation check into the actions of police officers after a video of a crying boy being forcefully led away and shoved into a police car in central Moscow gained the attention of the online community and human rights advocates.
The boy, who is reportedly nine or ten years old, was reading Shakespearean excerpts aloud in the street when police swung into action, claiming the child was unattended and being forced to beg.
He was detained on Friday evening near Moscow’s historic Arbat Street, popular with both tourists and locals. A clip of what appears to be a violent detention was shared on Facebook by an eyewitness, who said she decided to intervene when she heard the child screaming “in hysterics.”
Another woman, who is heard saying she knows the child and his parents, and addressing the crying boy by name, is seen trying to prevent the police officers from taking the boy away.
Chairman of the public council under the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Kucherena, has reportedly stepped in.
Russia’s ombudswoman for children’s rights, Anna Kuznetsova, has promised to carefully monitor the situation, saying it’s “too early to make firm conclusions,” and that both the child’s security “at home and in the street” as well as the actions of the police need to be thoroughly checked.
The boy had been begging when he was detained, Moscow police’s press office told TASS.
“The child was begging when he was spotted by police officers, but considering his age, he is not a subject of an administrative offense,” the press office said on Saturday.
The boy “was alone in the street, where he turned to passers-by and car drivers. He told the police he had been collecting money, unaccompanied by parents or legal representatives,” Interfax cited a police spokesperson as saying.
“Given these circumstances,” the minor was taken to a police department, authorities said. After his father arrived, papers accusing the adult of non-fulfillment of his duties on the child’s upbringing were also drafted.
However, later on Saturday, Russia’s NTV channel reported that police had apologized to the family. Citing a lawyer, the report said all accusations against the boy’s father had been withdrawn and a separate check into the actions of the officers had been launched.
According to the boy’s father, Ilya Skavronsky, his wife and son were on a walk in downtown Moscow when the incident happened. The boy attends drama classes and reciting literature pieces in the street helps him overcome his insecurities, NTV quoted the father as saying.
“My wife was reading the book on a bench nearby, and the child recited ‘Hamlet.’ Then the police squad arrived, and they discussed something with the boy without [his stepmother] involved. They then twisted him, there is a video recording of what had happened,” he said. He added that the incident has made his wife feel unwell.
Earlier this month, a Moscow journalist published video footage of a well-dressed boy also reciting ‘Hamlet’ on the Moscow’s famous pedestrian street, saying, he “has never seen anything like this before” and calling the boy “a street prince.”