Russian opposition issues warning to Kremlin



Moscow: Russian opposition leaders urged President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to stop clamping down on dissent and warned they would ask Western governments to freeze assets of Russian officials involved in the spiralling crackdown on the opposition.

Alexei Navalny and other opposition activists who were elected to the opposition's Coordinating Council in a weekend online election accused the Kremlin of unleashing a campaign of "direct and forceful pressure against its opponents in rude violation of Russian and international law”.

They pointed at what they said was the abduction of opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev from neighbouring Ukraine as an example of the repression of dissenters. The opposition leaders warned that government officials and law-enforcement officers will face "imminent punishment for their crimes against Russian citizens”.

They said the opposition will hold a rally in Moscow in support of Razvozzhayev and other jailed opposition members this weekend.

"The Coordinating Council will demand the arrest of all foreign assets of the masterminds and perpetrators of the abduction, torture and illegal criminal repression against the opposition," the opposition leaders said in a statement.

Russia's top investigative agency formally charged Razvozzhayev on Tuesday with orchestrating riots. The agency said he had turned himself in, but Razvozzhayev and his supporters said he was kidnapped from Ukraine where he was seeking asylum, smuggled back into Russia and tortured into confessing that he organised riots.

Members of a Russian prisoners' rights watchdog, who spoke on Wednesday after meeting with Razvozzhayev in jail, said unidentified abductors forced him into making "confessions" by threatening to kill him and his family.

Valery Borshchev and other members of the Public Observation Commission said the masked men who abducted Razvozzhayev kept him in handcuffs and leg chains in a basement for three days, denying him food, water, sleep and a toilet until he signed the confessions.

"They accompanied it all with threats, telling him that they know everything about his children and that his children and his wife will be dead," Borshchev said.

PTI