Russian Activist Udaltsov Charged in Plotting Riots

Posted October 26th, 2012 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Russian investigators have charged another opposition activist with plotting riots as part of an apparent Kremlin crackdown on the anti-Putin protest movement.

Russia's State Investigations Committee filed charges Friday against Sergei Udaltsov, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

He was not detained but has been ordered to stay in Moscow pending further investigation.

Udaltsov says he is innocent of the charges. He described them as “absurd” and called for protests in support of political prisoners of “Putin's regime.”

The charges come a few days after Russia's Investigations Committee brought charges against Leonid Razvozzhayev, an assistant deputy of the opposition Just Russia party, who said he was kidnapped and forcibly taken to Moscow.

Russia's Investigations Committee said Razvozzhayev turned himself in on Sunday in Ukraine and admitted to involvement in organizing mass disturbances in Russia. The activist said he was tortured into confessing, and his lawyer later said his client retracted his confession. He also faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Authorities launched a criminal probe last week against Udaltsov and his aide, Konstantin Lebedev, on charges they organized riots in May in Moscow. Lebedev is in police custody.

Since starting his third mandate earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed for laws restricting civic freedoms and foreign influence. The lower house of parliament, or Duma, passed a new bill Tuesday widening the definition of high treason – a move that critics say is part of the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent.

Current law describes high treason as espionage or other aid to a foreign state that damages Russia's external security. The new bill expands it to include moves against Russia's “constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial and state integrity.''

The bill drafted by the Federal Security Service also changes the interpretation of treason to include activities such as financial or consultative assistance to a foreign state or an international organization. It is certain to pass easily in the upper house, and President Putin can then sign it into law.