A Russian court on Wednesday sent a prominent activist to jail even before being heard, as authorities continued to crack down on critics ahead of the September parliamentary election.
The judicial court ordered Andrei Pivovarov to be held for two months, pending his trial, rejecting his appeal against his arrest.
He was pulled off from a Warsaw-bound plane at St. Petersburg’s airport before takeoff. He was taken to Krasnodar, where authorities accused him of supporting a local election candidate last year on behalf of an “undesirable organisation.”
Prior to his arrest, Open Russia’s leaders dissolved the group to protect its members from prosecution after Russian police, under the 2015 law that made membership in organisations a criminal arrest, designated them as an “undesirable” organisation.
Pivovarov said in his appeal that the criminal probe against him was only opened two days after the Open Russia dissolution.
In another development, a Moscow court on Wednesday locked up former Russian lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov who has aspired to run anew for a parliament seat.
Gudkov was said to be detained on Tuesday allegedly over financial charges that he and his supporters allegedly were trumped up.
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, denied accusations that both arrests were linked to politics.
“[The] accusations filed by law enforcement agencies have no relation to politics,” he was quoted as saying in a report by Euronews.
Open Russia was financed by businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who later moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russian on charges widely seen as challenging Putin’s rule.
“The authorities do not feel that confident about the results they can get in September,” he was quoted as saying.
“That’s why the Kremlin is trying to steamroll all political opponents,” he emphasized.