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Russian Police Detain Opposition Politician Gudkov, Ratchet Up Pressure On Open Russia


Dmitry Gudkov: "I don't know the formal reason. The real reason, though, is clear." (file photo)

Russian opposition politician and former State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov has been detained by police, the state-run TASS news agency reported on June 1, after he said law enforcement searched his cottage and the homes of some of his close associates amid a broader Kremlin crackdown on opposition forces in the country.

Gudkov was detained for 48 hours on suspicion he failed to pay debt under a lease agreement for a nonresidential premises in 2015-2017, TASS added, citing unnamed sources.

Earlier on June 1, Gudkov said in a post on his Telegram channel that the search occurred at his cottage in Kolomna, about 100 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

"There is a search at my dacha near Kolomna. The same for my former assistant Aleksandr Solovyov. The same for my chief of staff Vitaly Venidiktov. I don't know the formal reason. The real reason, though, is clear," he wrote.

'A New Wave Of Repression': Kremlin Critic Nabbed From Plane
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TASS confirmed the searches with a source familiar with the situation.

Solovyov is the former chairman of Open Russia, a civic organization that said on May 27 that it had decided to end its operations to protect its members from the risk of being prosecuted.

On May 31, Andrei Pivovarov, the former executive director of Open Russia, a pro-democracy movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was removed from a plane in St. Petersburg and detained.

Colleagues said police questioned him, searched his apartment, and opened a criminal case against him for allegedly violating Russia's legislation on "undesirable organisations."

The law, adopted in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources -- mainly from Europe and the United States.

Pivovarov and other activists at Open Russia, which was registered in Russia, say that the organization was entirely separate from the British-registered group with the same name that was designated "undesirable" in 2017 and subsequently shut down.

In a statement on June 1, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s spokesperson denounced "a continuous pattern of shrinking space for civil society, the opposition, and critical voices, as well as independent media" in Russia.

The bloc calls on the Russian authorities to "immediately and unconditionally" release Pivovarov and to repeal the legislation on “undesirable organizations,” said the spokesperson, Peter Stano.

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow office director, called Pivovarov’s detention “an audacious move by the Kremlin in its continued use of the law on ‘undesirable’ organizations to target and shut down critics.”

Zviagina urged the Russian authorities to “end reprisals against their political opponents and other critical voices in the country,” immediately release Pivovarov, drop all charges against him and “others prosecuted under the law of ‘undesirable organizations,’” and revoke “this discriminatory legislation.”

With reporting by Reuters