Russian protest leader Sergei Udaltsov was detained on Wednesday by Russian authorities for questioning, according to state-run RT and other Russian media. The state is bringing a criminal case against Udaltsov and other protest leaders who organized demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin.
The case alleges Udaltsov, leader of opposition group Left Front, was funded by Georgian officials and was creating mass disorder on their behalf. He could face as many as 10 years in prison.
Udaltsov said that the charges against him are politically motivated.
“This is arbitrary repression,” he told the RIA Novosti news agency while Russian police were escorting him away from his home in Moscow. “I hope society will not stay silent.”
Last week pro-Kremlin broadcaster NTV aired a video called “Anatomy of a Protest 2” about Udaltsov and the protests with footage purportedly showing Udaltsov meeting a high-level Georgian politician in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Allegedly, the two discussed a plan to wrest control of several cities in Russia, according to the news agency.
The Investigative Committee looking into the case said that experts had found no evidence the video received from NTV had been edited, said Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin.
The Committee also verified the voice in the footage used in the “Anatomy of a Protest 2” video belongs to Udaltsov.
“I’ve met with dozens of people in recent months, including Georgians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians, as well as nationals of European countries. This is a normal thing for a political figure to do,” Udaltsov told RIA Novosti last week.
“In some cases, we have sought funding for the Left Front from businessmen. But we have never discussed any kind of violent actions or received any instructions or funding of any kind from any foreign secret services,” he said.
Head of the For Human Rights movement, Lev Ponomaryov, told Radio Free Europe that use of these tactics against Russia’s opposition “remind one of the start of the repression in the 1930s,” when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began the great purge.
Two other opposition leaders, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev, were named in the case and Russian authorities are said to be searching their homes.
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