Criminal Case Opened Against Russian Opposition Leaders
October 17, 2012
A criminal case has been opened against the leader of the Russian opposition's Left Front movement, Sergei Udaltsov, and several other opposition leaders.
A spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, said the case centered on a film called "Anatomy of a Protest 2" and added that the charge was preparation for mass riots.
Markin also said opposition leaders were working with Georgian officials in a plot to overthrow the government.
The pro-Kremlin television channel NTV aired the film last week, claiming Udaltsov met with officials from Georgia to plan riots in Moscow.
Some of the other leaders who allegedly appeared in the film and were named in the criminal case were Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev. Markin said the authorities were searching their flats.
The flats of Udaltsov and his parents were also searched.
Markin said "experts" had established that a voice heard in the film was the voice of Udaltsov.
The Investigative Committee said the film also showed Udaltsov meeting in Minsk with the chairman of the Georgian parliament's Committee for Defense and Security, Givi Targamadze.
It said the meeting was also attended by the Georgian consul to Moldova, Mikhail Iashvili, and focused on raising funds for protests against President Vladimir Putin and organizing riots in Moscow.
The film also purportedly shows Udaltsov plotting to hang anti-Putin banners on Moscow's iconic Ivan the Great Bell Tower.
Udaltsov denies those accusations and said the film in question was doctored. Markin said experts determined the video was authentic.
"As the result of the investigation, no traces indicating that the video was doctored have been found. It was established that the voice on the video shot -- including the footage made by a surveillance camera -- and used in the film 'Anatomy of Protest 2' belongs to Udaltsov," Markin said.
"The meeting itself, fragments of which were shown in the video, took place in the second half of June 2012 in a residential apartment in the capital of Belarus, Minsk."
Reports said members of Russia's special forces led Udaltsov away to be questioned but he shouted out to people who gathered outside his flat.
"It is the authorities' revenge for our activity, I am calling on all citizens not to be silent and express outrage about it," he shouted.
Udaltsov was taken to the Investigative Committee building and later sent a text message saying, "I am about to be locked up." Udaltsov's wife, Anastasia, later told radio station Ekho Moskvy her husband was being detained for 48 hours.
Lebedev and Razvozzhaev reportedly were also ordered detained for 48 hours.
Udaltsov's lawyer, Violetta Volkova, said the Investigative Committee might order Udaltsov be held, but she rejected the charges against him, saying "he is not a supporter of violent methods."
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Udaltsov was unlikely to be the only opposition leader or rights activist to be facing charges.
"It depends on the degree of fear on the part of authorities and on the degree of their vengeance," she said.
Lev Ponomaryov, the leader of the For Human Rights movement, said the actions against Russia's opposition "remind one of the start of the repression in the 1930s," when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin initiated the great purge.
Based on reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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