Several dozen men in military fatigues and red fur hats can be seen on video punching and shoving the activists. Artyom Torchinsky—who is also a journalist for Dozhd TV, Russia’s only independent TV channel—was kicked repeatedly after being thrown to the ground, Navalny said on Twitter. Torchinsky was taken to the hospital for a head injury.
Артёма Торчинского просто били ногами пока он лежал с рюкзаком на спине. pic.twitter.com/DOyxj6U1CM— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) May 17, 2016
According to Reuters and Meduza, one of the Cossacks involved told Mosvka radio that they originally intended to throw some milk at the visitors, shout at them and “show them that there is no room here for Navalny, who lives on American money.” He said that one of the activists elbowed an elderly Cossack, which set off a brawl. (Another theory, one that Russia Today likes, is that these were not even Cossacks, but aggressive unidentified people “in camouflage.”)
Navalny—lawyer, politician, powerful LiveJournal blogger and occasionally arrested thorn in Putin’s side—brought his crew to the southern Russian resort town of Anapa for a country-side team-building exercise, ahead of the September primaries. Navalny called the incident “a continuation of a campaign of intimidation” orchestrated by the state, noting that armed cops had followed his group for days and the two cops at the scene barely intervened.
The Cossacks are best known for patrolling Russian borders and pogroming Jewish villages in the Czarist era, then being massacred by the Bolsheviks. Around Yeltsin’s time in the nineties, their Christian Orthodox Church-loving descendants began to enjoy a revival of traditions and employment. By the time Putinism swept the nation, they blossomed into flashy conservative squadrons, sometimes serving as an auxiliary police force on the government’s payroll, aiding the military annexation of Ukraine and volunteering at the Winter Olympic Games, where they “showed” stuff to some balaklava-clad devil-women with their whips and pepper spray.