Police detain participants in Russian opposition forum

Photo: AP A man stands near a police bus after he was detained in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 13, 2021.

Russian police on Saturday detained more than 170 participants of a forum of independent members of municipal councils, an action that comes amid the authorities’ multi-pronged crackdown on dissent.

Police showed up at the gathering in Moscow shortly after it opened, saying that all those present will be detained for taking part in an event organized by an “undesirable” organization. A police officer leading the raid said the detainees will be taken down to police precincts and charged with administrative violations.

OVD-Info, an independent group monitoring arrests and political repression, said that more than 170 participants in the forum were detained. Among them were Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician who leads one of Moscow’s municipal districts; former mayor of Yekaterinburg Yevgeny Roizman; and Moscow’s municipal council member Yulia Galyamina.

“Their goal was to scare people away from engaging in politics,” Andrei Pivovarov, a politician who helped organize the forum, said in a video from a police van.

Pivovarov has played a leading role in Open Russia, a group funded by self-exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

A 2015 law introduced criminal punishment for membership in “undesirable” organizations. The government has used the law to ban about 30 groups, including Open Russia.

An earlier law obliged non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in activities loosely described as political to register as “foreign agents.”

The laws have been widely criticized as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to stifle dissent, but the Russian authorities have described them as a fit response to alleged Western efforts to undermine the country.

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 17 January 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 2 1/2 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.

Similar articles

  • Belarus leader threatens to invite Russian troops

    Belarus leader threatens to invite Russian troops

    Belarus’ authoritarian president warned Friday that he would not hesitate to invite Russian troops into the country if such a move is necessary to ensure the security of both Belarus and Russia. However, President Alexander Lukashenko said that at the moment “there is absolutely no need” to do that, AP reports.

    45
  • Moldova's president names ex-finance minister as new PM

    Moldova's president names ex-finance minister as new PM

    Moldova's President Maia Sandu said on Friday she was nominating former Finance Minister Natalia Gavrilita to become the new prime minister, Reuters reported. Gavrilita needs to be approved by parliament, where Sandu's PAS party commands a majority after the winning a snap parliamentary election in July on a platform of carrying out reforms and tackling corruption.

    44
  • Ukraine meets conditions for next IMF tranche, President Zelensky says

    Ukraine meets conditions for next IMF tranche, President Zelensky says

    Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that the country expects to receive a second payment from its $5bn IMF programme after fulfilling all its agreed commitments, news wires reported. He said Ukraine had fulfilled its reform commitments, passing legislation to open the land market, overhaul the judicial system and strengthen the central bank. "We have done everything as I promised ... and everything that we need for Ukraine," Zelensky told reporters.

    34