A journalist for the opposition website Mediazona was hospitalised with a broken shoulder on Tuesday after being apparently assaulted by a police officer at a polling station in St Petersburg.
The journalist, David Frenkel, was investigating reported voting irregularities at the polling station when accosted by the officer. A video of the incident shows the journalist introducing himself, before being lifted, pressed against a door, and crushed by the officer.
A recording of the incident captures the crack of Mr Frenkel’s shoulder fracturing, and his subsequent cries of agony.
In comments to the Znak.com website, the journalist alleged the policeman first broke his arm and then struck him at the fracture point. For a while he could not move his fingers, he said.
Sergei Smirnov, Mediazona’s editor, confirmed Mr Frenkel was undergoing emergency surgery on Tuesday evening.
Mr Frenkel was at polling station 2191, in centre of the city, following up earlier reports that a member of the election committee had been unlawfully barred access to voting numbers.
This week’s vote is asking Russians to approve constitutional amendments that allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power. The plebiscite has been dominated by claims of election fixing. On Tuesday evening, the election monitoring group Golos said they had already clocked up nearly 1500 reports of infringements.
In interviews following the assault, Mr Frenkel said he had noticed “suspicious election observers” alongside the policeman. One of them stood on his leg, he added, and then pulled him by his injured arm.
Journalists have identified the police officer as 26 year-old Denis Dmitriyev, and his suspicious sidekick as Dmitry Abramov, a former council member for the ruling United Russia party.
It is still unclear what Mr Abramov was doing at the polling station. The local Public Chamber say he was not accredited as an official observer.
The police have meanwhile denied any wrongdoing.
No officer was responsible for breaking anyone’s shoulder, a representative claimed; what the video showed was “not an assault,” but “assistance in removing a citizen from the polling station.”