Left-wing Putin opponent charged with plotting mass disorder


IN THE latest move by Russian authorities against critics of President Vladimir Putin a left-wing opposition activist has been charged with plotting mass disorder.

Sergei Udaltsov, co-ordinator of the radical Left Front and a leading organiser of street protests that have brought tens of thousands to the streets of Moscow, faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of orchestrating riots.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, the federal detective agency, announced the charges yesterday, after collecting evidence from a documentary that aired on a pro-Kremlin TV channel earlier this month.

“I am not guilty,” Mr Udaltsov (35) told reporters outside the committee headquarters, clad in his usual blue jeans and black jacket. “Those who thought I would run across the border like a dog were mistaken.”

On his way to meet investigators he shook his fists, a gesture to the handful of supporters that braved the Moscow sleet.

The case against him centres on allegations that he sought money from Georgian politicians to stage an anti-government uprising.

The claims were made in Anatomy of a Protest II, a documentary that aired earlier this month on NTV, a channel known for its enthusiastic pro-government line. The programme was cited by Russian investigators in the charges against Mr Udaltsov.

Last year Mr Putin accused the US of funding the opposition, but testy relations with Georgia make these claims sensitive. The opposition say the documentary is staged.

Two other left-wingers, Konstantin Lebedev and Leonid Razvozzhayev, are in custody on the same charges.

Human rights groups have called on the Russian government to investigate claims that Razvozzhayev was abducted by Russian special forces while attempting to claim political asylum in Kiev last week and later tortured.

Mr Udaltsov is banned from leaving the country.