Russian Political Activist Charged Amid UN Concern

A Russian opposition activist was charged on Tuesday with planning mass disorder as the UN agency on refugees demanded an explanation for his disappearance from the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

A spokesperson for Russia’s Investigation Committee said on Monday that Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev had handed himself in to its Moscow office and confessed to organizing mass riots across the country.

Razvozzhayev, who strenuously denied the charges against him in a blog post last week, had vanished from Kiev on Friday after seeking political refugee status at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kiev, his lawyer, Violetta Volkova, said.

The UN agency on Monday said it was “deeply concerned” about Razvozzhayev’s disappearance.

“Mr. Razvozzhayev said he would go to a nearby cafeteria for lunch and left his personal belongings in the office,” the United Nations statement read. “When he did not return to the interview, and the lawyer could not contact him on the phone, a missing person’s report was immediately filed.”

Footage posted by the online Life News website appeared to show Razvozzhayev saying he had been tortured.

“They tortured me for two days, they kidnapped me in Ukraine,” he shouted to journalists, as officers bundled him out of a Moscow courthouse and into a police vehicle.

Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin denied Razvozzhayev had been subjected to either physical or psychological pressure, and that he had been in his “right mind” when he signed the ten-page confession.

“I don’t know what he told journalists,” he said.

Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said in a statement on Tuesday that Razvozzhayev had told him he had not been tortured “in his pre-trial detention center cell” at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. Lukin’s secretary said the ombudsman would make no further comment on his visit when contacted by RIA Novosti.

These charges come just over a week after pro-Kremlin NTV channel aired what it said was secretly-filmed footage of  Razvozzhayev, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, and Left Front activist Konstantin Lebedev meeting leading Georgian politician Givi Targamadze in the Belarusian capital Minsk to discuss plans to seize power in cities across Russia, including the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

All three men have been charged, and Lebedev was also taken into custody last week. Udaltsov, a fiery shaven-headed leftist who has led protests against the almost 13-year-rule of Vladimir Putin, was released on a pledge not to leave Moscow.

Udaltsov says the footage is fake and the charges against him are “lunacy.”

NTV journalist Alexei Malkin told a Moscow court last week that an “unknown Georgian” handed him a disc containing the footage as he was walking down the street.

“This is all revenge for our recent protests,” Udaltsov told journalists on Saturday. “Everything is clear – this is a challenge to society and an attempt to launch a new wave of repression. If we don’t stop it, we will face a long, political winter.”


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