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Allegations of brutal abuse by Russian police are so common they barely register


SERGEI PESTOV was a passionate drummer. In the mid-1970s, he was a founding member of the Soviet rock group Zhar-Ptitsa (Fire-Bird), thrilling fans of the country’s nascent underground music scene with his frantic solos. Although, like many Soviet and Russian musicians, he never made a living from performing, he continued to pound the drums whenever he got the chance. On September 4, 2015, Pestov, then 57, had just put down his sticks after a jam session in a converted garage in Dubna, a small town near Moscow, when police officers burst in.

The exact details of what happened next are the subject of an ongoing legal dispute between Russian law enforcement officials and lawyers representing Pestov’s family. But what is not disputed is this: The following morning, Pestov’s wife, Irina, discovered his bruised and lifeless body in a local hospital, a victim of what human rights activists allege is the widespread use of torture by Russian police.

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