A Moscow court has placed a leading human rights activist in pretrial detention on suspicion of fraud, extending Russia's crackdown on civil society.
Investigators alleged that Andrei Mayakov, the deputy head of the Committee for Civil Rights, accepted at least 900,000 rubles ($13,700) from a defendant in a criminal case, promising him he would bribe prosecutors to rule in his favor.
"Mayakov did not have acquaintances in the given subdivision of the prosecutor's office nor any other ways of influencing the procedural decision in a criminal case," Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax September 17.
"He intended to pot the money he had received illegally."
Markin alleged on Twitter that Mayakov, who authorities said they would keep in detention until November 16, had been tried on fraud charges three times in the past.
Critics say the case against Mayakov is fabricated.
"I have no doubt that this is some kind of provocation," opposition leader Aleksei Navalny wrote on Twitter.
AFP quoted one anonymous Russian investigator as saying, "Some use the noble notion of human rights for their selfish interests and, based on the recent cases, this so-called 'business' is becoming increasingly criminal."
Russia has used various tactics for increasing pressure on civil groups since President Vladimir Putin's reelection in 2012. This year, it adopted a law that allows authorities to brand groups that receive funding from abroad as "foreign agents."
Ninety-two organizations, including prominent human rights group Memorial and elections monitor Golos, currently are on the list of "foreign agents."