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Russian Activist Jailed Over Letters Submitted To Putin


A Russian opposition activist has been jailed for organizing a letter-writing campaign urging, in part, President Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term next year.

Authorities in Russia's Tatarstan region say Darya Kulakova, 23, violated a law on public demonstrations and disobeyed police in connection with the public submission of letters to Putin's regional reception office.

A court in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan, on April 30 sentenced Kulakova to 10 days in jail for her role in the action, which was staged the previous day as protesters demonstrated against the government in several Russian cities.

Russia in recent years has tightened laws on protests and other public events in what critics call a concerted move to stamp out visible demonstrations of dissent. Authorities say the laws prevent mass events from interrupting daily life in towns and cities.

Kazan authorities had refused to grant permission for a street demonstration under the auspices of the April 29 protests spearheaded by Kulakova's group, Open Russia, which was founded by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The protests resulted in dozens of arrests in several Russian cities, though the turnout appeared to be substantially smaller that nationwide protests against corruption last month organized by prominent Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

In lieu of the protest, Kulakova and her fellow activists decided to walk to the Kremlin's regional reception center in Kazan to submit letters to Putin

After several activists dropped their letters in a box brought out to the street by an employee, Kulakova was detained by police. Her fellow activist, Lyaysan Ismagilova, was detained later, and both were held by police overnight.

The police report, details of which emerged on April 30, accused Kulakova of organizing an "unsanctioned public event...in the form of submitting letters to the Russian president's reception that voiced demands against the policies of the current authorities."

The report cited specific demands contained in the letters, including "Putin, don't run for a fourth term" and a request that Kazan's mayor call off plans for the construction of a waste-incineration plant.

Ismagilova was also found guilty on April 30 of violating a law on public demonstrations and ordered to perform 36 hours of community service.

Kulakova's attorney, Elza Nisanbekova, has appealed the ruling, and Tatarstan's supreme court was set to hear the matter on May 1.

Nisanbekova argued that submitting letters to Putin's reception center does not constitute a public demonstration.

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