MOSCOW, November 21 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) – A Russian opposition activist facing up to ten years over allegations that he conspired to organize mass disorder was hit with additional charges on Wednesday when investigators accused him of an armed robbery dating from 1997.
Leonid Razvozzhayev, an activist with the Left Front political movement, was charged with robbing a businessman of 500 fur hats and video cameras in the East Siberian city of Angarsk, Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
“The authorities are determined to lock up their political opponents and are trying to do so in anyway they can,” leading Left Front member Alexei Sakhnin told RIA Novosti.
Markin said Razvozzhayev and his alleged accomplices in the robbery brandished a hunting rifle and two handguns. He said the charges had been brought after the victim’s wife complained that the crime had still not been solved.
Razvozzhayev was charged in October with plotting to destabilize Russia in a bid to overthrow President Vladimir Putin. The charges were based on grainy, low-quality footage aired by the pro-Kremlin television channel NTV.
The channel said the footage also showed Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, one of the leaders of the almost yearlong anti-Putin movement, Razvozzhayev, and another activist from the socialist group, Konstantin Lebedev, discussing the plot with an influential Georgian politician.
Razvozzhayev made international headlines in October when he said he had been abducted by “masked men” after applying for political asylum in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. He told human rights workers who visited him in a Moscow pre-trial detention centre last month that said his abductors had threatened to kill him and his children if he did not confess to the coup charges and incriminate Udaltsov, Lebedev and other opposition figures.
“The new accusations show how weak the case on the NTV footage charges is,” Sakhnin, the Left Front member, told RIA Novosti.
Opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny is also facing ten years behind bars after being charged this summer with large-scale embezzlement. Navalny has called the charges “absurd.”
Putin has denied a clampdown is underway against opposition to his rule, saying “everyone must comply with Russian law.”