MOSCOW, November 22 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators refused on Thursday to open a criminal investigation into allegations by a leftist political activist that he was tortured into confessing to a plot to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.
Leonid Razvozzhayev, a member of the Left Front political movement, made international headlines in mid-October when he said he had been abducted by “masked men” after applying for political asylum in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and spirited away to Moscow by his kidnappers.
Razvozzhayev also told human rights workers who visited him in a Moscow pre-trial detention center that his abductors had threatened to kill him and his children if he did not sign a detailed confession.
“A number of witnesses were questioned and their testimony indicated the unreliability of Razvozzhayev’s claims about his abduction and torture,” said Vladimir Markin, spokesperson for Russia’s Investigation Committee.
The charges against Razvozzhayev, an aide to opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, stem from grainy footage aired by the pro-Kremlin television channel NTV in early October.
The channel said the footage also showed Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, one of the leaders of the anti-Putin street movement, Razvozzhayev, and another activist from the socialist group, Konstantin Lebedev, discussing the plot with an influential Georgian politician.
All three men have been charged and deny the accusations. Lebedev has been in custody since early last month, while Udaltsov has been ordered not to leave Moscow.
“The Investigation Committee investigated itself, so it’s hardly surprising that they declined to bring charges,” Ponomaryov, a co-founder of the Left Front, told RIA Novosti.
Investigators also said Razvozzhayev refused to take a lie detector test over his claims that he was forced to sign the confession, which he has since retracted.
The development comes a day after investigators brought additional charges of armed robbery against the 39-year-old left-wing activist.
Razvozzhayev was charged on Wednesday with robbing a businessman of 500 fur hats and video cameras in the East Siberian city of Angarsk in 1997. He faces 15 years behind bars if found guilty.
Investigators said Razvozzhayev and his alleged accomplices in the robbery brandished a hunting rifle and two handguns. He said the charges had been brought after the victim’s wife complained that the crime had still not been solved.
“This is simply another attempt to blacken his name and the name of the Left Front,” Ponomaryov, the opposition lawmaker, said.
Opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny is also facing ten years behind bars after being charged this summer with large-scale embezzlement. Navalny has called the charges “absurd.”
Putin has denied a clampdown is underway against opposition to his rule, saying “everyone must comply with Russian law.”