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Protesters in Daghestan beaten by police

3 January 2023
The father of the 19-year-old killed in November, calling for an end to the protests in a video published by local government. Screenshot from Kayakentsky District Administration Telegram channel.

Daghestani police beat participants of a protest on 2 January, who were demanding the punishment of the alleged killers of a 19-year-old man. The following day, a video was published in which the victim’s father claimed his demands had been fulfilled, and called on people to refrain from further protests. 

19-year-old Magomed-Ali Sultanov was killed on 10 November 2022 in the Kayakentsky district of east Daghestan. A friend of his was severely beaten in the same incident.

Two days later, Daghestan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs announced on their Telegram channel that the suspect in the death of the 19-year-old had been detained and that ‘all legally-required measures have been taken’. The statement added that suggestions that the guilty party had not been detained were ‘groundless’. 

An hour later, the agency posted a video to their Telegram channel, in which the 18-year-old alleged to have killed Sultanov is shown explaining the details of the conflict. He explains that, while being choked by Sultanov in a fight, he had a ‘panic attack’ and stabbed Sultanov with a knife. 

The Ministry writes in the caption that the initial cause of the fight was a disagreement between family members of the deceased and those of the alleged killer, with a verbal telephone conflict leading to a meeting and fight in person. The Ministry adds that the 18-year-old was detained on the night of the incident. 

Two protests

However, according to the family of the deceased, the conflict was less straightforward than the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ posts suggested. 

Video footage of the first protest, showing at least 20 attendees, was shared on 24 November by the Dagestan Life Telegram news channel.

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The video shows two men addressing a crowd gathered around them in front of a mosque. In their speech, they identify themselves as the father of the victim and the father of the injured friend of the deceased.

According to the Russian translation, Sultanov’s father says that those who killed his son could avoid punishment. The two men add that they believe that there were three attackers, and claim that the victims’ relatives were offered large sums of money ‘for silence’.

Shortly after the video was published, Daghestan's ombudsperson Jamal Aliyev wrote that although only one suspect had been arrested, ‘other suspects have been established, but they remain at large’.

Daghestan’s ombudsperson’s office did not respond to OC Media’s request for comment. 

A second protest, held on 2 January, was forcefully dispersed by police, who appear to have beaten gathered protesters. 

Videos of the protest published by Daghestani newspaper Novoye delo show people standing by a road, holding signs with the inscriptions ‘We demand justice’ and ‘A murderer’s place is behind bars’.

Police confronting protesters on 2 January. Screenshot of video from Utro Daghestan.

According to Activatica, a Russian-language outlet reporting on civic activism, protesters resisted police efforts to disperse the protest, prompting fighting between protesters and police. 

In videos from the protest, police are shown beating individuals from a crowd of at least 100 gathered on the road, and later chasing a protester into a shop and beating him there. According to Activatica, a helicopter seen flying over the road is likely to have been bringing reinforcements forces for suppressing the protest. 

The Utro Daghestan Telegram channel shared similar videos alleged to be from the Kayakentsky protests, showing police beating protesters with batons. It added that local residents intended to continue the protests the following day.

However, early on Tuesday morning, a nearly three-minute video of Sultanov's father addressing the public in Kumyk and Russian was published on the Telegram channel of the Kayakentsky district administration

According to the channel, the father of the 19-year-old contacted the head of the district, requesting that he be allowed to record an official video message, on hearing of ‘calls of unknown origin’ encouraging people to continue protesting Sultanov’s murder. 

In the video, Sultanov’s father thanked everyone who came to the protests and said that his wishes had been fulfilled, urging people not to attend further protests. 

‘A minister came, a prosecutor, and a judge, and our demands were fulfilled. I have one more thing to tell you: about our gathering. I received information that some bad people want to use the fact that we have gathered for other purposes. I don't know what their goals are, but I'm asking you — don’t fall for it, don't listen to anyone,' he said.

‘If necessary, I will personally tell you, I will turn to the village council. If it is necessary we will gather and talk, so do not listen, I beg you very much, not to anyone’.