10-year-old boy's arrest for reading poetry shocks Russians

MOSCOW • The heavy-handed arrest and detention by Moscow police of a 10-year-old boy who had touched passers-by by reading poetry on the street shocked Russians over the weekend.

Officers were shown bundling the screaming boy into a police car in central Moscow as he shouted "Save me!" in distressing mobile phone footage aired on Russian television.

Police claimed that the boy, named by media as Oskar Mironov, had been "begging" on the street on Friday. They held him at a police station until the early hours of Saturday.

The boy's father told Russian media his son had been reading poetry aloud while his stepmother sat on a bench nearby.

The boy's detention came after riot police were criticised for heavy-handed tactics as they detained dozens of teenagers in March at a Moscow demonstration organised by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Investigative Committee of Moscow, which probes serious crimes, said it would check the police's handling and the parents' actions. Moscow police said they were also carrying out a check and would "make public" the result.

Days earlier, a journalist at Moskovsky Komsomolets daily had praised the boy for his street poetry-reading, posting a Facebook video. He said passers-by gave the boy small amounts of money but he was not begging.

The slight boy in glasses is shown reciting by heart Hamlet's To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy on Arbat, a popular pedestrian area.

The boy's stepmother shot the mobile phone video as the police took the boy away. It was unclear why the incident escalated.

Influential lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who chairs the Interior Ministry's public council, went to the police station and told Russian television that the police had apologised to the boy's parents.

However, the police said they had charged the boy's father with failing to carry out his parental duties, which carries a fine of 500 roubles (S$12).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline '10-year-old boy's arrest for reading poetry shocks Russians'. Print Edition | Subscribe