Tramps `dumped as human garbage in police clean-up'

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MOSCOW POLICE, not known for their softly-softly approach, have sunk to new depths of brutality by rounding up tramps and dumping them like human garbage at a rubbish tip, says a Russian television station.

The hard-hitting NTV channel said tramps told them 30 of their fellows were picked up in a police sweep of the Yaroslavsky railway station last week and carted to the tip at Lyubertsy, beyond the city limits.

Television pictures showed the body of one alleged victim, although the reporter admitted it was not clear whether police had beaten him to death or he had died of other causes. Three disabled tramps were crawling on the road near by. Down-and-outs sometimes go to the rubbish tip on their own, scavenging for scraps, and some time ago, a community of punks also lived there.

"A stinking cloud hangs over this place constantly," said the reporter. "It is so thick it is difficult to breathe if you are not used to it. For many years, criminals have brought the bodies of their victims here.

"Bodies rot practically without trace in the aeration pits. But a short while ago, the police started to use the services of this place too." Police made no comment. The journalist said authorities were investigating the claims, and officers found guilty of abusing their powers could face jail.

Hospital staff had also put themselves in a bad light by refusing to take in the disabled until they were threatened with adverse publicity. If police are found to have exceeded their authority, it will come as little surprise to Muscovites, and even less of a shock to the immigrant population, used to rough treatment at their hands.

In an unrelated incident last weekend, fans at a concert of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers were beaten with truncheons for breaking the no-beer rule on Red Square. People arrested for minor infringements were hung by handcuffs to the overhead rails of the police buses. "We were treated like cattle," said one girl.

If life generally in Russia is cheap, then the lives of tramps are particularly worthless. In Soviet times, homelessness did not officially exist because anybody without a roof over his head found himself in a cell.

The homeless, or, in Russian "bomzh", the acronym for "without any particular place of residence", have multiplied in the transition to capitalism. Many are elderly people, who have lost their flats in property frauds.