Police detained Dmitry Gudkov for two days over an alleged unpaid debt on a leased property dating several years ago.
Russian police have released Dmitry Gudkov, a leading opposition politician, in Moscow on Thursday after detaining him for two days.
Gudkov, a former lawmaker, was arrested for alleged unpaid debt on a leased property dating back several years. His father said his son had nothing to do with the property.
Shortly after his release, Gudkov posted a photo of himself on Twitter with the caption “Freedom!”
– Dmitry Gudkov (@gudkovd) 3 June 2021
‘Thank you very much for your support. It’s just your fault, ‘he told well-wishers in a separate tweet.
Gudkov’s lawyer, Mikhail Biryukov, said in a news release that it was not clear if his release meant the investigation was still active. Gudkov could face up to five years in prison if charged and convicted, the TASS news agency reported.
Russia’s opposition says authorities have launched a campaign of intimidation against dissidents in recent months ahead of a parliamentary vote in September, with allegations rejected by the Kremlin.
Police also conducted searches at Gudkov’s country house outside Moscow, as well as in the homes of his allies and relatives.
The Kremlin critic was released when the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, also known as the Russian Davos, began in Russia’s second city on Thursday.
President Vladimir Putin will address the forum on Friday – the most important showcase for investors.
Gudkov’s unusual release came after a Russian court on Wednesday ordered another well-known Kremlin critic, Andrei Pivovarov, to serve two months in custody.
Pivovarov, the former executive director of Open Russia, a recently disbanded pro-democracy group, was picked up from a flight from Warsaw on Monday when his plane took off in the direction of takeoff.
Police searched his apartment in St. Petersburg overnight and a criminal investigation was launched against the activist for collaborating with an ‘undesirable organization’. Pivovarov is sentenced to up to six years in prison if convicted.
Open Russia, founded by self-proclaimed Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, announced last week that it would stand still to protect its members from persecution.
The group was named an ‘undesirable’ organization in Russia in 2017 in accordance with a law on foreign-funded groups accused of political interference.
The European Union had earlier called for Gudkov to be released.
“The arrest of opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov is politically motivated,” EU Leading Spokesman Peter Stano tweeted.
He said the Russian state “must allow and promote conditions for real political competition”.
Russia: arrest of opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov @gudkovd is politically motivated. 🇪🇺 demands that she and other opposition activists be released immediately and unconditionally. The state must allow and promote conditions for real political competition. https://t.co/qnIy6tdyz5
– Peter Stano (@ExtSpoxEU) 3 June 2021
Despite Gudkov’s release, leading opposition figure Alexey Navalny remains in prison serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence. The Kremlin critic was arrested in January when he returned from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoned by the Kremlin, allegations rejected by Russian officials.
His arrest led to protests across Russia that were the biggest evidence of defiance against the Kremlin in years.