Calls to probe Russian official over stance on domestic abuse

Moscow (AFP) –


Relatives of Russian women who lost their lives to domestic violence are urging the government to probe a deputy minister for downplaying the scale of the problem, a rights group said Friday.

In a letter to Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, relatives of four victims said his deputy Mikhail Galperin was unfit to occupy his position.

In the letter whose excerpts were released by Zona Prava, a non-governmental group, the relatives said they "are deeply outraged" by Galperin's position.

Among them is the father of Yana Savchuk who was killed by her partner in 2016 after police ignored her pleas for help.

In a case that shocked Russia at the time, a female police officer told Savchuk: "Don't worry, if you get killed, we'll come to register the body."

Domestic violence is a major issue in Russia but efforts by activists to lobby for a separate law against violence have so far failed.

Police do not normally intervene, even in severe cases.

In a statement to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in October, Deputy Justice Minister Galperin downplayed the gravity of the issue, saying "the problem of non-family violence is far more topical."

Galperin also said existing legislation was enough to protect women, adding that men were in fact more vulnerable because they are "not generally expected to ask for protection."

Galperin's statement to the ECHR came after four victims of domestic abuse including Margarita Gracheva turned to the Strasbourg-based court, complaining that Russian authorities could not protect them.

Gracheva had her hands chopped off by her husband in 2017.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Friday said the problem of domestic violence existed in the country but it did not fall within the Kremlin's purview.

"It is not on the presidential administration's agenda," Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He declined to say whether the Kremlin would support a probe into Galperin.

In a report last year, Human Rights Watch said that Russian police dismiss victims of domestic violence and pointed to "significant gaps in Russian legislation" such as a lack of a separate criminal charge for "domestic violence", and a culture of victim blaming.

The report detailed extreme assaults including women being choked, punched and burned by their attackers.