MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian investigators said on Monday they would probe the source of some $15,000 seized from opposition activist Ilya Yashin as part of a criminal case into the alleged funding of the anti-Putin protest movement by a Georgian politician.
“Investigators will seek to determine the source of these funds and their purpose,” said Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin, adding the probe was part of a criminal case involving Givi Targamadze, the Georgian politician accused of financing “mass disorder” at a protest rally in Moscow last May.
Some twenty people are currently facing criminal charges over clashes between police and protesters at the demonstration, which came on the eve of Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third presidential term.
Markin said earlier this month that investigators had “evidence” Targamadze had also helped finance the protests against Putin’s rule in late 2011 and last year.
The money was seized from Yashin last summer during a series of raids that also saw some $2 million seized from television celebrity-turned-dissident Ksenia Sobchak.
Sobchak’s money was later returned to her.
Yashin denied on Monday he had received the money from Targamadze, saying in a Live Journal post that the cash was his personal savings. Yashin has frequently stated he has no bank account.
He also claimed investigators had forced their way into his rented Moscow apartment in his absence and taken the money.
“What do you called armed men in masks who break into your home in your absence and take your money and valuables?” Yashin wrote. “Some would call them robbers. They prefer to call themselves investigators.”
Grainy footage aired by the state-owned NTV channel last October purported to show Targamadze and opposition figurehead Sergei Udaltsov, plus two other leftist activists, Konstantin Lebedev and Leonid Razvozzhayev, plotting to seize power in cities across Russia. All four men deny the charges.
Udaltsov and Lebedev are under house arrest, while Razvozzhayev is being kept in a prison hospital in Irkustk, in east Siberia. His lawyers have claimed he is under pressure to incriminate opposition leaders in the alleged plot.
Georgia has said it will not extradite Targamadze. Udaltsov, Lebedev and Razvozzhayev face up to 10 years behind bars if found guilty.