Russians shocked as police detain boy reciting poetry

A video was posted to Facebook of a woman trying to prevent the actions of the police.
A video was posted to Facebook of a woman trying to prevent the actions of the police.SCREENSHOT: FACEBOOK

MOSCOW (AFP) - The heavy-handed arrest and detention by Moscow police of a 10-year-old boy who had touched passersby by reading poetry on the street shocked Russians on Saturday (May 27).

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

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

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 before a journalist at Moskovsky Komsomolets popular daily had praised the boy for his street poetry reading, posting a Facebook video.

The slight boy in glasses is shown reading by heart the "To be or not to be" monologue from Shakespeare's Hamlet on Arbat, a popular pedestrian area.

The journalist, Alexander Minkin, called the boy "a street prince" and "my hero." He said passersby gave the boy small amounts of money but he was not begging.

OVD.Info website, which monitors detentions, said the boy and his stepmother spent around four hours at the police station, leaving after midnight.

The boy's stepmother shot cell phone footage as the police took away the boy and told Russian media she followed him to the station. It was unclear why the incident escalated.

The boy's father told Life News media group that his son had been practising his acting skills.

It is unusual to see children performing on Moscow streets and busking is not universally accepted. Moscow metro only recently lifted its ban on musicians.

Influential lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who represents US fugitive Edward Snowden and chairs the interior ministry's public council, went to the police station and told Russian television that police had apologised to the boy's parents.

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