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Russian police officer Alexei Dymovsky has released a series of videos calling out corruption and asking Prime Minister Putin to act.
On Tuesday morning, Dymovsky fled to Moscow, where he held a press conference in a packed room. As the neatly dressed blond made his way through the crowd, one cameraman shouted, “Let the hero through!”
Dymovsky has served in the police force for 10 years, he says in one of the videos, living on a monthly wage of 14,000 rubles ($487) while working “30 out of every 31 days.”
At the press conference, he likened his act to “suicide.”
“I’m a little scared to speak in front of you and the whole country,” Dymovsky says on one video. “I have a wife, who is six months pregnant. But I can’t act differently.”
A work-related injury prompted Dymovsky’s public appeal, after he says local medical officials refused to treat him. Tabloid website Life.ru ran an interview with the clinic’s main doctor, Zoya Vasilievna, on Tuesday, who said: “This major provoked a very strange feeling — his face carried all the signs of psychopathic person.”
An interior ministry source chose another tack to slam Dymovsky, accusing him of working for foreign agents.
“The chosen method, the form and time of publication of the video, is evidence of the fact that Dymovsky is being used by the support of third parties," the source told Interfax news agency this weekend.
“The leadership of several so-called regional ‘human rights’ groups, sponsored, in part, from abroad are actively participating in this affair,” the source said, singling out USAID, the U.S. government development agency.
The U.S. embassy declined to comment on Tuesday. Dymovsky himself denied the claim on Tuesday, saying he had only met foreigners twice before in his life.
What the interior ministry source also appeared to hint at was the format of Dymovsky’s complaint — using a medium that remains largely free of government control.
“It’s about freedom,” said Lev Ponomaryov, one of Russia’s leading human rights activists. “The internet is the only free platform where such things can be made public.”
He said he feared for a coming crackdown on the internet by government authorities, who have taken all major television channels under control, and work with a largely compliant print media.
“I think they will do something,” Ponomaryov said. “They will shut down the internet.”
There have been increasing worries in Russia as authorities turn their attention to the internet, with usage growing every day. In the past couple of years, several bloggers have been charged with extremism for blog posts and comments critical of the government.