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Dozens arrested in Moscow via facial-recognition system on Russia Day

Facial-Recognition (Gerd Altmann/Pixabay)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Moscow police have detained dozens of journalists and activists after they were identified using a facial recognition system in the city’s metro according to the OVD-Info group, which monitors the arrests of representatives of democratic institutions, rights defenders, and opposition politicians.

According to the group, at least 67 activists and journalists were detained on June 12, which is commemorated as Russia Day, of whom 43 individuals were detained after being identified as potential protesters. They were picked out of the crowds in the Moscow metro by police through the usage of the facial recognition system.

Journalists Pyotr Ivanov, Olga Bazhanova, and Asya Kazantseva, as well as rights activists and participants of previous public actions of protests were among those detained.

They said police told them they were picked up as potential protesters on Russia Day, a national holiday celebrating the then-Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s declaration of state sovereignty in 1990. Prior to the recent coronavirus pandemic, political opposition and activists traditionally held anti-government protests on Russia Day.

Most of those detained were released hours later.

Kazantseva told the Mediazona website that police demanded she write a statement saying that she went through a “preventive conversation” and “was instructed that persons who had faced administrative arrests in the past cannot enter the metro on the Russia Day.”

Activist Arina Yaroslavtseva told OVD-Info that she was detained twice on June 12 in different districts of Moscow. At one police station was fingerprinted while at another she went through what the police called “a preventive conversation.” She did not elaborate.