Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov has said Russian opposition activists should be considered "enemies of the people and traitors.”
According to a statement issued by Kadyrov's office late on January 12, the Kremlin-backed leader said the liberal opposition was trying to exploit Russia's economic difficulties to destabilize the country.
“They should be put on trial, with maximum severity, for sabotage," he said.
The statement drew criticism from rights activists and opposition figures, including Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister who is now an opposition politician.
“From Soviet history it is widely known that in Stalin's time that is what they called anyone who thought differently ... and that such people were liquidated," Kasyanov said.
Russia’s opposition has come under increased pressure since the mass protests in Moscow that accompanied President Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in 2012.