Russian police have detained 150 people at meeting of opposition politicians in Moscow, accusing them of having links to an ‘undesirable organisation’.
The detentions come amid a crackdown on anti-Kremlin sentiment, following the arrest and imprisonment of opposition politician
The forum, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, was a gathering of municipal deputies from all over the country, Andrei Pivovarov, the event’s organiser and executive director of Open Russia, told radio station Echo Moskvy.
Open Russia is a British-based group founded by exiled former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Khodorkovsky moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Russian police have detained 150 people at meeting of opposition politicians in Moscow, accusing them of having links to ‘undesirable organisation’ Open Russia, founded by exiled former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left). Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Vladimir Putin’s (right) rule
As the forum got underway, police entered the building and began detaining attendees and taking them to police vans waiting outside, video footage from TV Rain and Russian news agencies showed.
A police officer leading the raid said the detainees will be taken down to police precincts and charged with administrative violations.
OVD-Info, which monitors the detention of political protesters and activists, published a list of more than 150 people it said had been detained.
Opposition politician Ilea Yasmin wrote on Twitter: ‘The police came to the forum of municipal deputies in Moscow.
‘There are 150 people here from all over the country. Everyone is being detained. I mean, everyone.’
A Russian court last month handed a suspended sentence to activist Anastasia Shevchenko (pictured with her son Mikhail) accused of membership of an ‘undesirable’ organisation
Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-president of the Free Russia Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, shared a picture from the inside of a police van after he was detained.
The police said all participants were being detained because of the ‘activities of an undesirable organisation’, TV Rain reported.
Open Russia is one of more than 30 groups that Moscow has labelled as undesirable and banned under a law adopted in 2015.
Rights advocates say the laws on ‘undesirable’ organisations and ‘foreign agents’ can be used to pressure and target civil society members.
Russia denies that and says the laws are needed to protect its national security from outside meddling.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-president of the Free Russia Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, was also detained
It comes after a Russian court last month handed a suspended sentence to an activist accused of membership of an ‘undesirable’ organisation.
Anastasia Shevchenko, 41, was accused of engaging in political activities under the aegis of Open Russia.
Prosecutors had asked the court in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia to sentence Shevchenko to five years in prison, but the court handed her a four-year suspended term.
Shevchenko, a mother of two who has been under house arrest for two years, has denied the accusations as political punishment for her opposition views.
When she was put under house arrest in January 2019, the authorities waited for several days before letting Shevchenko visit her elder teenage daughter who was in critical condition at a hospital and died a day after she finally was allowed to see her.
Shevchenko’s case has attracted broad nationwide attention, marking the first attempt by authorities to prosecute under the 2015 law introducing criminal punishment for membership in ‘undesirable’ organisations.
Alexei Navalny (pictured in court last month) has been moved from a jail to an unknown location, his lawyers have claimed
The police crackdown on Saturday’s forum follows the arrest and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most determined political foe was arrested on January 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
Last month, Navalny was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany – charges he dismissed as a Kremlin vendetta.
His arrest and imprisonment triggered a wave of protests across Russia, to which the authorities responded with a massive crackdown.
The government has intensified its crackdown on the opposition ahead of parliamentary elections set for September as the popularity of the main Kremlin-backed party, United Russia, has dwindled.
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