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Russian 'Soldiers' Mothers' Activist Detained

  • RFE/RL

A screen grab from a Dozhd TV report on Lyudmila Bogatenkova, from the Stavropol branch of Russia's Soldiers' Mothers Committee

A screen grab from a Dozhd TV report on Lyudmila Bogatenkova, from the Stavropol branch of Russia's Soldiers' Mothers Committee

Russian authorities have reportedly detained the local head of a group that has publicly alleged direct Russian troop involvement in neighboring Ukraine.

The head of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee from the Budennovsk branch in Russia's Stavropol region, 73-year-old Lyudmila Bogatenkova, was said to have been detained on suspicion of fraud.

An assistant, Elena Gerasimova, confirmed the detention to RFE/RL's Russian Service.

The charges stem from four-year-old allegations of financial wrongdoing, the same report added.

Other reports said Bogatenkova's home was searched by police on October 17 and by October 18 she had been taken into custody.

The Facebook page of the St. Petersburg branch of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee called Bogatenkova's detention an "act of intimidation in connection with her activities."

The Citizen And The Army, a public initiative that has been critical of the Russian military, said Bogatenkova would not be able to consult with a lawyer until October 20. It did not explain.

Radio station Govorit Moskva quoted activist and Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Sergei Krivenko as saying that the council -- a 62-member advisory body comprising a range of public figures but some of whose harshest Kremlin critics quit two years ago -- would look into Bogatenkova's case:

In August, Bogatenkova referred specific cases of soldiers allegedly killed in action in Ukraine to that same presidential council. Its request for answers from military investigators has not received any conclusive response, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service.

The Soldiers' Mothers group has long fought Russian military abuses and for the rights of conscripts and other soldiers, and has been researching recent deaths of Russian soldiers since the violence erupted in neighboring Ukraine.

Bogatenkova had been investigating the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and had testified for Russian authorities with specific data on a small number of those cases.

She has been quoted as suggesting her group had a list of hundreds of soldiers that included many killed or wounded in action, many of them from the nearby southern Russian regions.

Western governments accuse Russia of sending troops and weapons to support pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow insists it is not a party to the fighting.

The Soldiers' Mothers Committee has claimed repeatedly that Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded fighting alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia's Justice Ministry placed the St. Petersburg branch of the committee on a "foreign agent" blacklist in August after the head of the committee's branch there, Ella Polyankova, claimed more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in fighting near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhnye.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Tsenzor.net.ua, liveleak.com
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