Car-Wash Clash Lands Russian Traffic Cops In Hot Water

ULAN-UDE, Russia -- Two Russian traffic police officers in the Siberian region of Buryatia have been charged with violent behavior and abuse of power after CCTV videos showing them beating a car wash director were posted online.

The Investigative Committee branch in the region said on December 14 that the two officers, whose names were not disclosed, refused to pay after their vehicle was cleaned at a car wash in Buryatia's capital, Ulan-Ude, on November 22.

In a statement, it said they invited the director to get into their car and then threatened him and demanded he put the car wash under their "protection" in order to regularly extort money from him.

The manager rejected the demand and told the officers that he had recorded their threats and offers on his mobile phone and would post the records online.

The officers then chased the director, caught him, and tried to take the mobile phone from him by force, the statement said.

The director escaped and ran into the office, but the traffic policemen forced their way in and beat him up while trying to take his mobile phone.

They stopped beating him only after they realized that there were CCTV cameras in the office, the investigators said.

One of the officers is under house arrest and another one has been ordered not to leave the city while investigations are under way.

Buryatia’s Interior Ministry told RFE/RL that "if the two officers' guilt is proven in court," they will be fired and their direct supervisors will be officially reprimanded.

Abuses by police, prison guards, and other law enforcement officers have long been rife in Russia.

The issue was widely debated across Russia after a video showing at least 17 guards beating an inmate at a prison in Yaroslavl became public in July.

On November 13, the deputy head of Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), Valery Maksimenko, said that Russia needs more prisons to hold police officers and other law enforcement agents who have been convicted of crimes.