Why a Russian teen was arrested after reading her country's constitution

A 17-year-old Russian girl is being hailed as a hero and symbol of resistance after she was photographed reading the Russian constitution to a group of armed riot police at a bloody protest.

With a protective vest strapped around her chest, the teenager sits on the ground in front of a group of heavily-armed Russian police wielding batons and riot gear.

With just a pen in her vest and the Russian constitution in her hands, she begins to read out the passages to the group of policemen, as a major protest unfolded around her.

Source: Twitter

Her name is Olga Misik, a 17-year old recent high school graduate, who said she just wanted to emphasise that the Russian Constitution should “not seem like a collection of jokes”.

Article 31 of the Russian Constitution guarantees the right to peaceful political assembly.

“I just wanted to remind them that we are here with peaceful purposes and without weapons, but they are not,” the teenager told Russian media outlet Meduza, according to a translation of the interview. 

“It never even occurred to me that someone other than them would hear it,” she added, referring to the flurry of media attention she received after she was spotted.

Source: Twitter

“I sat down on the ground and again began to read out our constitutional rights, clarifying that what was happening here (the arrests) were illegal, that the Constitution of the Russian Federation had the highest legal force, and that by-laws should not contradict it.”

The images of the girl have been shared widely around the world for its poignant contrast of a peaceful protester against the backdrop of armed policemen.

Some on social media have described the teen as a “hero”; others a symbol of Russian resistance.

The teenager was later detained by police – one of hundreds arrested at the July 27 protest against the banning of opposition candidates from local elections.

Russian riot police detain a participant during a liberal opposition protest in front of Moscow Mayor's office in Moscow, Russia, 27 July 2019.
Source: EPA

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested days before the protest, and suddenly fell ill while in custody blaming a facial swelling and rash on a suspected poisoning attempt.

Some of the protesters were seen bleeding during the crackdown.

Video also shows Olga dragged away by a group of policemen as she tries to resist.

“They grabbed my arms and legs and dragged me down the street and through the underpass,” she said.

“I screamed that they were holding me painfully, but they told me that they knew better.”

The teenager said her mother was angry after learning about the arrest.

“My mother is very opposed to me going to rallies, because she is afraid of the consequences, and my father just loves (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and Stalin and considers them the best rulers, and hates the protesters," she said.

Published 2 August 2019 at 4:09pm, updated 2 August 2019 at 4:17pm
By Rashida Yosufzai