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"If I had continued to be silent, then those people would think that they'd managed in some way to scare me or influence me," Olga Bulayeva told RFE/RL.

MOSCOW -- An employee of the Anticorruption Foundation run by Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has alleged that a member of the Russian secret services attempted to recruit her and issued threats when she refused to cooperate.

In a video posted to Navalny's YouTube channel on January 28, Olga Bulayeva, an office manager at the organization since September 2017, said she was confronted by two uniformed guards inside the Moscow subway as she made her way to the platform on the evening of January 15.

The security guards asked for her documents and then led her to a separate room in the vestibule of the station, Bulayeva said. They then confiscated her cell phone and passed it to a man who entered the room after her. He introduced himself only as Dmitry, according to Bulayeva.

"He told me, 'We know that your mother is ill and that you find yourself in difficult life circumstances. We want to help you with your mother's treatment and improve your financial situation, in exchange for your cooperation,'" Bulayeva says in the video (below).

Her mother is receiving treatment for cancer, she explained.



When Bulayeva declined, she said she was told that the Anticorruption Foundation is a corrupt organization and that Bulayeva's colleagues don't have her best interests at heart. The man began threatening her and said unspecified measures would be taken if she revealed details of their conversation to anyone, Bulayeva said.

When Bulayeva informed her colleagues at the Anticorruption Foundation of the exchange, she was told by its lawyers that the threats carry no weight and advised her to go on the record about the incident.

"It's important to remember that they always try and frighten people in vulnerable positions," Bulayeva said. "And it's enough simply not to give up and to stay true to your principles."

The video, which has been watched more than 400,000 times, is more than a simple retelling of the incident by Bulayeva. It opens with a short introduction from Navalny, who comes on again after Bulayeva's appearance to criticize the "crooks and thieves" he alleges run the Russian government, and the measures they take to discredit the political opposition.

I want to distance myself from those people as far as possible, so that they understand clearly that they can't frighten me."

Neither the Federal Security Service (FSB) nor the Interior Ministry have yet commented publicly on the allegations made by Bulayeva.

In an interview with Kommersant, retired FSB General Aleksandr Mikhailov said that an opposition office manager like Bulayeva would be a very useful source for the Russian secret services.

"She knows who comes and goes, who whispers what to whom, who influences whom, and who dislikes whom. This is a very useful person," Mikhailov said.

In a telephone interview, Bulayeva said she thought for several days about whether to go public about the incident, as she is not used to the spotlight.

"I decided that it's better for me to publish a video or post on social media because I think that if I had continued to be silent, then those people would think that they'd managed in some way to scare me or influence me," she told RFE/RL. "But I want to distance myself from those people as far as possible, so that they understand clearly that they can't frighten me."

At the time of her questioning on January 15, Bulayeva added, she was concerned about funding for her mother's treatment and her job security. She said she suspects those who confronted her were well aware of her situation. But since the video went online, she said, she has received numerous offers of financial help from supporters.

Navalny's foundation has leveraged various social-media platforms in spreading the word about its anticorruption campaign, and its videos are viewed by millions of people. It has sparked nationwide scandals in recent years with detailed probes into the illicit finances of Russia's elite, most recently publishing investigations into Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, National Guard head Viktor Zolotov, and various Duma deputies.

In March 2017, a video exposé about the lavish lifestyle of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev catalyzed mass protests across Russia and led to a concerted Kremlin campaign to engage Russian youth, who have had a large presence at opposition marches organized by Navalny.

The woman charged was among some 500 demonstrators who gathered in Bishkek on January 17 to protest against what they called the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang. (file photo)

BISHKEK -- A woman in Kyrgyzstan has been arrested and charged with inciting ethnic hatred during a protest against Beijing's policies in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang.

A court in Kyrgyzstan’s capital ordered Guljamila Saparalieva to be held in pretrial detention for two months, activist Amanbol Babakulov told RFE/RL on January 29.

The Interfax news agency quoted the Bishkek police as saying that the Birinchi Mai district court ordered that Saparalieva be remanded in custody due to the "gravity" of the accusation and the "social danger" that the accused represents.

The investigation into the case was continuing, they also said.

Babakulov said the 56-year-old Saparalieva was detained on January 23.

She was among some 500 demonstrators who gathered on Bishkek’s Ala-Too Square on January 17 to protest against what they called the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang.

The protesters also urged authorities to deport what they said were hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrants living illegally in Kyrgyzstan.

The Interior Ministry later said that 21 of the protesters were found guilty of disrupting public order next day and fined 3,000 soms ($45) each.

Following similar protests in Bishkek in recent months, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov on January 11 warned that "those trying to disrupt the Kyrgyz-Chinese partnership" will face legal prosecution.

The United Nations said in August that an estimated 1 million Muslims from indigenous ethnic communities in Xinjiang were being held in "counterextremism centers."

The UN also said millions more had been forced into reeducation camps.

China denies that the facilities are internment camps.

Uyghurs are the largest indigenous community in Xinjiang, followed by Kazakhs. The region is home as well to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans.

Han, China's largest ethnicity, are the second-largest community in Xinjiang.

With reporting by Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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