On March 18, 2017, an official rally on the anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea took place in front of the main building of Moscow State University. For this event in Moscow and similar rallies in other cities, students, teachers and university personnel were ordered to come with posters with such slogans like “Putin is the savior of the Crimea and Sevastopol!”, “Thanks to Putin for the Crimea and Sevastopol!”, ” Russia – Crimea – Unity!” But the previous day several dozen students, graduate students and graduates of the Moscow State University participated in a picket at the metro station “University” against the rally and concert in front of the University building. They stood with posters “University Is Us”, “Political Festivals Do Not Belong in the Temple of Science”, and so on.
During the rally. Zakhar Sarapoulov, a graduate student of the History Faculty, was beaten up by secret servicemen because he dared to hang a Ukrainian flag from a student dormitory. Later he explained that it was not even a political action: “My goal was to attract attention to the dormitory conditions. It is full of rats, cockroaches and bedbugs. Some money is needed for the improvement of the University.”
Sarapoulov was detained by a security officer of the dormitory. Later a Moscow State University police officer came and three people in civilian clothes, who introduced themselves as FSB officers. They used force to enter Sarapoulov’s room and searched it without a warrant. They took away his camera, phone and laptop. Sarapulov told the press: “In the police department of the University they beat me up with fists, legs and a stick while asking me who gave me the money, what organization I belong to, although I do not belong to any.” This lasted for 1.5-2 hours.
After that Sarapoulov was forced to write that he “agrees to work as an informant under the FSB auspices” under the pseudonym “Graduate Student.” The FSB men gave him back his equipment and left. After that policemen forced him to write a statement that he had waved a Ukrainian flag and used foul language. Sarapoulov was released after he paid fine for an act of petty hooliganism. The next day Sarapoulov went to a medical unit to document his beating and filed a statement with the Committee to Prevent Torture.
Sarapoulov also met with two Ukrainian journalists, Roman Tsimbalyuk and Nikita Borodin. All three were detained by police. Policemen took away their passports and accreditation IDs from the journalists and interrogated all three. The Ukrainian consul arrived at the police station, but it’s unclear if he was allowed to see the journalists. After three hours, the three detainees were released.