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Russian Actors Launch Flashmob in Support of Colleague Jailed Over Moscow Protests

Russian film and theater actors have staged an in-person and online campaign in support of a fellow actor who was jailed for using violence against a policeman during one of this summer’s unauthorized election protests in Moscow. 

A court sentenced Pavel Ustinov to three and a half years behind bars Monday for allegedly dislocating an officer’s shoulder while resisting detention during protests on Aug. 3. Ustinov, 23, denied injuring anyone or taking part in the protest, saying he was waiting for a friend near a metro station when he was approached by police on Pushkin Square.

A number of Russian celebrities have followed actor Alexander Pal’s call to action, either uploading videos of themselves expressing support for Ustinov or posting images of the phrase “I/We Are Pavel Ustinov.” The phrase borrowed from this summer’s campaign in support of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who was jailed on drug trafficking charges but quickly released after the case drew mass public outrage.

“Journalists have stood up for Golunov, rappers have stood up for Husky. Let’s at least not keep silent during bows today, tomorrow and in the coming days,” said Chekhov Moscow Art Theater director Alexander Molochnikov. 

More than 500,000 of the artists’ combined 16 million Instagram followers have watched the video posts so far, the Open Media news website reported.

Four theater productions in Moscow on Monday evening ended their curtain calls with words of support for Ustinov, who studied acting and played small roles in Russian films.

Celebrated actor Konstantin Raikin, whose school Ustinov had attended, called the verdict “a criminal injustice.” 

“So I’ll fight, and not I alone, but our entire school will fight, with all our forces,” Raikin told Kommersant FM radio on Monday.

Ustinov became the sixth person to be convicted over demonstrations demanding that opposition candidates be allowed to take part in Moscow’s Sept. 8 local election.

Election officials’ refusal to register opposition candidates on technical grounds triggered the biggest sustained protest movement in Russia since 2011-2013, with up to 60,000 people rallying at one point.

Russia's ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, lost a third of its seats in the Moscow city assembly in the vote, although it retained its majority. 

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