MOSCOW, December 4 (RIA Novosti) – A jailed Russian opposition activist facing charges of conspiring to topple President Vladimir Putin was accused on Tuesday of illegally crossing the country’s border with Ukraine to evade prosecution.
The Investigative Committee, a body similar to the FBI, said Leonid Razvozzhayev, an activist with the Left Front political movement, had fled Russia after the pro-Kremlin NTV channel aired on October 5 footage it said showed him meeting with an influential Georgian politician to plot the destabilization of Russia.
“Razvozzhayev realized that he could face a criminal charges after the documentary… and decided to evade prosecution and flee,” the Investigative Committee statement said.
Investigators said that Razvozzhayev illegally purchased a train ticket to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in October by using his brother’s passport. The charge carries a maximum sentence of two years.
Razvozzhayev made international headlines in October when he told human rights workers that “masked men” had abducted him as he was seeking UN political asylum status in Kiev. He said his abductors had threatened to kill him and his two children if he did not confess to the plot and also incriminate Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, one of the leaders of ongoing anti-Putin protests. Both Udaltsov and another Left Front activist, Konstantin Lebedev, were also alleged to have plotted to overthrow Putin. All three men deny the charges, which could see them jailed for up to ten years apiece.
Razvozzhayev later retracted his confession.
The Investigative Committee said Razvozzhaeyv handed himself in at its Moscow headquarters and was in “his right mind” when he signed the confession. Investigators have refused to open charges on Razvozzhayev’s allegations that he was tortured.
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights asked Russia and Ukraine to provide information on the case after Razvozzhayev’s lawyers asked the Strasbourg-based court to look into the case.
“I think that this [new case] is a response to the European Court’s decision to act urgently on our complaint,” Razvozzhayev’s lawyer, Dmitry Agranovsky, told the Russian legal news service RAPSI on Tuesday.
Aside from the plot and border-crossing charges, Razvozzhayev was also charged last month with armed robbery in a case dating from 1997. Investigators said he and accomplices robbed a businessman in eastern Siberia of 500 fur hats and video camera.
“The authorities are determined to lock up their political opponents and are trying to do so in anyway they can,” leading Left Front member Alexei Sakhnin told RIA Novosti after the fur hat charges were announced.
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.”
But Putin has denied a clampdown is underway against opposition to his rule, saying “everyone must comply with Russian law.”