by ALEC SMART
Bondi Beach ‘character’ and local strongman, Dimitri Moskovich, took part in a wrestle he wasn’t expecting when two police officers, male and female, tackled him for allegedly violating Covid-19 restrictions.
Moskovich, a 54-year-old Russian-born fitness fanatic, frequently seen at the beachside North Bondi Outdoor Gym that locals have dubbed ‘Dimi’s Office’, allegedly attempted to swim near Ben Buckler Point on the northern end of Bondi Beach on Sunday 19 April.
However, when he reportedly entered a fenced-off area, two police officers, a male and a female, pounced and pinned him to the grass before one wrenched his arms behind his back to handcuff him.
Moskovich requested onlookers to film the incident, although several witnesses were already recording his ordeal.
In the videos posted to social media and used by news organisations, Moscovich can be heard pleading, “I’m a respectable local guy… Please guys, just stop. I’m not doing anything wrong! You started harassing me! You started with me about nothing! I’ll come with you to the police station but I’m not giving you my arms.”
“Put your arms behind your back, just cooperate with us, okay?” the female officer instructed Moskovich, who, wearing only his signature ‘budgie-smuggler’ tight swimming pants, defiantly clenched his arms together at his stomach to avoid them being handcuffed.
Some of the onlookers remonstrated with the police that Moskovich would more likely cooperate if they didn’t handcuff him.
“Let him have some dignity, he’ll walk with you!” said one.
”He’s not going anywhere, he’s a local,” said another. “He’s the most well-known guy in Bondi. Just let him walk with you, he’ll walk with you.”
Moskovich sustained a cut on his forehead and bruises to his wrist during his arrest by police. Once handcuffed, he was led to a police van and driven to Waverley Police Station where he was charged with failing to comply with “terms of notice erected by council”, and for resisting arrest.
A NSW Police statement said, “About 3.30pm, police approached the 54-year-old man after noticing him walking through fencing near the rock platform at Ben Buckler Point, allegedly contravening the local government signs stating the area was closed.
“Police attempted to speak to the man, however he walked away. As police approached him again it is alleged he became quarrelsome and argumentative…
“He was released on conditional bail and is due to appear before Waverley Local Court on Tuesday 7 July.”
After five hours in custody Moskovich was interviewed by TV’s Channel Nine News at the entrance to Waverley Police Station, still wearing his red ‘budgie-smuggler’ swimming pants and nothing else.
“I didn’t break any law,” he told the waiting camera crew. “I didn’t climb any fences. I didn’t do anything at all. I had a swim. I had a swim off the rocks. The police can do something to an absolute model citizen, a law-abiding citizen and treat me like an absolute animal.”
Later, on his Facebook profile, Moskovich posted: “I only hope those silly Police poodles, who attacked me for no reason, will get the justice. Today i have lost my faith in Australian Police. The first time in a month I have broken Social distances, when those silly kids attacked me.”
The following morning Moskovich added: “Our Frontline Police fighting dangerous criminals risking their lives.
What a bunch of heros! Well done, Boys! You will all get a Special Corona Virus Medal for your heroics. I hope none of you got hurt fighting that Dangerous Animal yesterday.”
In a police briefing on 20 April, the morning after the arrest, NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys rejected suggestions Moskovich had been “crash tackled” by the two arresting officers and reiterated that nobody was “exempt from rules” at closed beaches when it came to following police instructions.
However, Moskovich told Daily Mail Australia, “All I did was walk through a bit of fence that is always open on the way to my car – I didn’t even go swimming. Ben Buckler Point isn’t closed. Hundreds of people were laying around on the grass sunbaking and they targeted me. I know my rights and I know all the local government rules.
“I’m not some drunk guy who is being silly. I’m a law abiding citizen. I was going home to have a nice night with my wife for Russian orthodox Easter. They told me I was breaking the law, but I said ‘You personally didn’t even see how I got here, you didn’t see me climbing any barricade!’
“I kept walking, then he jumped on me like I was some sort of criminal with a knife. They were going absolutely berserk… I kept saying I would go with them to the station but they kept going.”
Bondi Beach was closed on Saturday March 21 after large crowds swarmed onto the sand the previous day during a spate of warm weather. The gathering breached the Australian Govt’s social distancing regulations that, at the time, recommended a limit of 500 people in an outdoors setting to halt the spread of coronavirus. Ten days later the NSW Govt scaled back the limit to two people together in public and only when exercising or undertaking essential trips.
On Monday 20 April some Sydney councils announced a reopening of selected beaches for exercise, including swimming, surfing or walking/jogging on the sand, although sunbaking or relaxing on the beach are expressly forbidden.
Randwick City Council reopened its beaches – stretching from Clovelly to Yarra Bay, including the popular Coogee and Maroubra – but beaches managed by Waverley Council, including Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama remain fenced-off.
North Shore beaches remained open for exercise during the Covid-19 lockdown, although Manly and Dee Why were not patrolled by lifeguards like most of the other beaches along the coast north to Palm Beach.
Budgie smuggling celebrity
Moskovich, allegedly a self-proclaimed former agent in the Russian Special Forces, is a colourful character and no stranger to publicity. Known as the leader of group of fitness fanatics that work-out in North Bondi beside the Surf Club, his media appearances have ranged from voting in his budgie smugglers to the time he broke his legs whilst ogling a topless female sunbather.
In Aug 2009 he defended the wearing of tight Speedo ‘budgie smuggler’ swimming briefs – popularised by former Prime Minister Tony Abbot – when he was asked his opinion on a British swimming pool banning men wearing them, in favour of board shorts.
Dubbed “The Battle of the Bulge,” Moskovich declared the ban “beyond imagination,” adding, “I wear them because it is much more comfortable. What can possibly be inappropriate about that? If you are trying to swim or jog, they are so uncomfortable. I cannot think of one reason why you should wear boardshorts.”
On 28 March 2015, Moskovich was photographed in his signature red budgie smugglers casting a vote during local elections whilst in a polling booth established at Bondi Surf Club. Daily Telegraph photographer Kristi Miller took the image and posted it on social media, which then went ‘viral’ and was shared thousands of times around the world.
Moskovich, who found the incident amusing, revealed, “I try to vote for who I think once they are elected would do the less harm. Maybe I think I will start my own party: Dimitri’s Cut the Bullshit Party!”
On 18 Jan 2014 he was the subject of a dramatic rescue operation after he shattered his legs falling seven metres from the Bondi rope climb on Ben Buckler head to the rock plateau below. He was winched up the cliff in a rescue tray and transported to St Vincent’s Hospital where he endured a seven-hour surgery to treat 20 fractures in the lower half of both his legs and a badly damaged right foot.
Later he admitted “I was looking at a very nice topless girl and I forgot what I was there for and next thing my legs were completely smashed.”
He paid for his ogling by spending the next few months in a wheelchair and was often seen being pushed along the Bondi Beach promenade.