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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Where Moscow Detains Its 'Illegal' Residents

Moscow security forces on Thursday allowed journalists to visit a police station where Caucasus nationals and others are being held prior to expulsion from the capital. and although only a small percentage of those detained for illegal residency are being deported, the visit showed that the level of police harassment is high.

According to Vasily Kornilov, head of Police Station No. 7 near the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow's Central District, over 600 people have been detained at his station since the start of emergency rule 11 days ago. Of these, he said only 33 had been deported.

On Thursday afternoon Station No. 7 was keeping 16 prisoners in a small, barred holding cell. Kornilov said that detainees are allowed to use the phone, but they cannot smoke or walk about.

"If they can prove they have some legal reason for being in Moscow", he said, "we let them go".

Kornilov cited the case of an Azerbaijani who was detained Wednesday. According to Kornilov, the man was released after telephone calls to a hospital proved that he was indeed visiting his sick mother who is hospitalized here.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the same man will not be stopped again and again.

Many detainees leave Moscow of their own accord, but not without police supervision.

Temuraz Khutuanishvili, 25, from Tbilisi, who is being held at Station 7, said he had arrived in Moscow from Hungary on Wednesday, and had planned to fly home to Georgia as soon as possible.

Kornilov said he would be accompanied to the airport.

The prisoners, the majority of whom Kornilov said were Azerbaijani, are not supposed to be kept at the station for more than three hours, but some of the prisoners interviewed said they had been there since the morning.

If prisoners are to be deported, they are then moved to one of 90 special processing centers in Moscow.

Not all the prisoners in the cell were from the Caucasus. Two Ukrainians and a Siberian were being held for illegal residency and misdemeanors, and a man who identified himself only as Stanislav, 23, said he was in jail because his mother had called the police after they had an argument.

Kornilov, who said he would like to see a formal visa system imposed between Russia and the Caucasus republics, said he had not yet worked out a foolproof way of getting rid of illegal residents.

"One guy I deported to Baku two days ago is back again", he said. "I've known him for years, and I like him. He's a good guy. But no matter what, he just comes back every time".

In a separate development, meanwhile, The Moscow Times obtained a facsimile of a directive sent to traffic police posts around the city that instructs the GAI on what to do with Caucasus nationals in Moscow without proper papers.

In published reports, Captain Andrei Shchavelev, a spokesman for the GAI, was quoted as saying that Caucasus nationals had not been singled out in any in-house order. But the document, which was first seen by The Moscow Times on Tuesday, specifically instructs GAI officers on how to proceed "upon discovering persons of Caucasian nationality"

Contacted by telephone Thursday, Shchavelev said he had no information about the document. He referred a reporter to the chief of the city GAI, Vasily Yuryev, who was not immediately available for comment.