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Russian Court Orders House Arrest For Activist Charged Under 'Undesirable' Law

Anastasia Shevchenko

A Russian court has ordered nearly two months of house arrest for an activist affiliated with а civil society group founded by former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The case against Anastasia Shevchenko appears to be the first time that Russian authorities have criminally prosecuted someone under the “undesirable organization” law -- a controversial measure signed into law nearly four years ago by President Vladimir Putin.

Russian news reports said that a court in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don ordered house arrest for Shevchenko on January 23. The Kommersant newspaper said prosecutors alleged that Shevchenko might flee the country, even though police had already seized her passport.

"If I had the wish to hide, I would have done it a long time ago," Shevchenko was quoted by Kommersant as telling the court. "I will never ditch my mother and leave my children."

Shevchenko was charged with violating the law on January 21, as law enforcement agents in Rostov-on-Don and Kazan raided the homes of six activists affiliated with the organization known as Open Russia.

If Shevchenko is found guilty, she could face between two and six years in prison.

Open Russia, which did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment, was founded by Khodorkovsky after he was released from prison and fled Russia.

Once Russia’s wealthiest man, Khodorkovsky was prosecuted in the early 2000s on financial fraud charges, and his company, Yukos, was dismantled and sold off in suspect bankruptcy auctions.

The “undesirable organization” measure, signed into law by Putin in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations who received funding from foreign sources. Last year, Russian authorities formally listed Open Russia under the law.

The raids appeared to be part of a wider effort by Russian law enforcement, who targeted other Open Russia activists across the country.

The British-based rights group Amnesty International said Open Russia activists in Pskov and Krasnodar had been targeted in recent days, with one charged with selling illegal drugs.

With reporting by Kommersant and RBK
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