Russian authorities have arrested a leading opposition activist after being dragged from a flight, and several houses’ houses raided.
Andrei Pivovarov, the head of the Open Russia movement, arrived at St. Petersburg airport late Monday.
Pivovarov’s team said police questioned him, searched his apartment and on Tuesday opened a criminal case against him for allegedly violating Russia’s laws on ‘unwanted organizations’.
“These situations show us that they are afraid of us and that we are a majority,” Pivovarov’s Twitter account said.
The Krasnodar branch of the Commission of Inquiry, which is investigating major cases, said in a statement that in August 2020, Pivovarov had published material in support of an ‘undesirable organization’.
The statement also accused the activist of trying to flee from investigators on Monday.
Pivovarov said he was going on vacation when he was detained.
Pivovarov’s removal from the plane comes after Belarussian authorities diverted a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to the capital Minsk on May 23 and arrested a journalist on board.
The Polish airline LOT, which operates the Pivovarov flight, said the plane was taking a taxi when the Russian air traffic control ordered the crew to return to the parking position.
“The pilot had to comply with this order because he was under Russian jurisdiction,” the Polish news agency PAP quoted the company as saying.
Poland said it was investigating the matter.
‘This is an unusual move, because if the Russians wanted to keep this person, they could do it before they got in. The question is why this was done at that exact moment, “Piotr Wawrzyk, deputy foreign minister, told state broadcaster TVP.
“The standards of the civilized world do not apply there.”
Open Russia marked as ‘undesirable’
Open Russia was funded by tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who moved to London after spending ten years in prison in Russia, on charges considered by some to be political revenge for challenging President Vladimir Putin’s government.
Russia declared the group “undesirable” in 2017 and effectively banned its activities.
His allies in Russia continued their activism under a separate legal entity to try to protect themselves from persecution.
However, the group last week expanded its activities in Russia to prevent its supporters from facing criminal prosecution, while parliament is ready to pass legislation that will increase criminal liability for anyone working with ‘undesirable organizations’.
Russia says the law is needed to protect national security from external interference.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Tuesday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.
At least two of his co-workers had their homes searched.
“I do not know the formal reason for this,” Gudkov wrote on the Telegram platform for social media. “But the real (reason) is clear.”
Gudkov’s father Gennady, also critical of the Kremlin, described the searches as ‘a special operation to eliminate Gudkov’s team’.
Authorities have not yet commented on the operation, Gudkov said.
Disagreement against disagreement
The move took place when Russia appeared to be blocking political opposition ahead of the September parliamentary elections.
Putin’s United Russia party recently lost support due to economic problems.
The president’s leading political enemy, Alexey Navalny, was arrested in January on his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a poisoning of a nerve agent he blames on the Kremlin – accusations leveled at Russian officials reject.
He is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for violating the terms of a suspended sentence as a result of a 2014 conviction he considers politically motivated.
With Navalny in jail, prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to designate Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and its network of regional offices as ‘extremist’ groups.
In a parallel move, a bill passed by the Russian parliament is barred from preventing members, donors and supporters of ‘extremist’ groups from seeking public office – a measure not to remove Navalny’s associates in September. to present to parliament.