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Dmitri Buchenkov says he he managed to leave Russia after he was transferred from pretrial detention to house arrest in Moscow. 

A Russian man accused of involvement in clashes with police at a protest on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration in 2012 says he has left the country.

Speaking to Current Time TV, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, Dmitry Buchenkov said on November 9 that he is currently in a European Union country and has applied for asylum. He declined to name the country.

Buchenkov said he managed to leave Russia after he was transferred from pretrial detention to house arrest in Moscow.

Buchenkov was charged in connection with violence between police and protesters at a demonstration on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012.

But Buchenkov reiterated that he was not there at all that day.

Police detained more than 400 people after the clashes, which police and demonstrators blame on one another.

The rally was one of a series of large opposition protests sparked mainly by anger over evidence of widespread electoral fraud and dismay at Putin's decision to return to the presidency after a four-year stint as prime minister.

More than 30 people were prosecuted in connection with the clashes and more than 20 were sentenced to prison or served time in pretrial custody.

In August, the last imprisoned Bolotnaya activist, Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, was released after serving a 30-month sentence. He left Russia for the United States two weeks later.

Amnesty International has said that the police action at the rally "was not the quelling of a riot but the crushing of a protest" and that all those prosecuted are "victims of a politically motivated show trial."

One Bolotnaya protester, Maksim Panfilov, has been committed to a psychiatric hospital in the southern city of Astrakhan.

With reporting by Current Time TV
RT editor in chief Margarita Simonyan says her network will register as a foreign agent in the United States but added that "we categorically disagree" with the statement. (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized Washington's alleged demand for state-funded Russian television channel RT to register as a foreign agent in the United States as "an attack" on Russia's media and vowed a "tit-for-tat" response.

However, Putin said that a plan being discussed by Russian lawmakers to retaliate by declaring U.S. media operating in Russia as foreign agents “might be a little too harsh.”

Putin said on November 11 that the Kremlin was still formulating its exact response to measures adopted by Washington towards Russian media in the United States.

RT, which used to be known as Russia Today, said in a statement on its website on November 9 that it had been given a November 13 deadline by the U.S. Justice Department to register under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). RT said it would go to court to challenge the measure.

The U.S. Justice Department, which has repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny ordering RT to register under FARA, declined to comment to RFE/RL on November 9. RT says it received a letter demanding registration in September, but it has not made that document public.

RT and the state-owned news agency Sputnik have been accused by U.S. intelligence of spreading misinformation during last year's presidential campaign and election which may have influenced the vote's outcome.

"An attack on our media is an attack on freedom of speech," Putin told journalists at the APEC summit in Vietnam.

"We are disappointed, as they say in these situations," Putin said.

"There is not and cannot be any confirmation that our media was meddling," he said.

"Media express a point of view," Putin said. "You can contest it but not by closing them down or creating conditions in which they cannot continue professional work."

"They went the route of de-facto closure [of RT]," Putin said. "There will be a proper tit-for-tat response."

On November 10, Russian officials said Moscow will adopt new legislation targeting U.S. media in the country as soon as next week.

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the legislature would amend its existing law on "foreign agents" to include foreign media. Deputy Duma speaker Sergei Neverov said the changes could also affect Western social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

With reporting by AP and TASS

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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