Russian investigators opened a criminal case against opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov and two other activists for plotting mass riots in Moscow and other regions, charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Searches were under way today involving those suspected of preparing the unrest, the Investigative Committee in Moscow said in a statement on its website. A probe was started after state- run NTV channel broadcast footage allegedly showing Udaltsov meeting a Georgian official to plot protests against President Vladimir Putin.
Putin, who reclaimed the presidency in May, has hardened his response to the biggest unrest in more than a decade after protesters took to the streets to denounce alleged fraud in December parliamentary elections. Investigators said they will probe information about Udaltsov and his associates allegedly plotting terrorist attacks, the most serious accusation leveled against opposition figures since Putin came to power in 2000.
“Those who think it is possible to organize mass riots, plan terrorist attacks and go absolutely unpunished underestimate the professionalism of Russian secret services,” Vladimir Markin, chief spokesman for the committee, said in the statement. “For such actions Russia’s criminal code stipulates penalties up to a life sentence.”
Udaltsov admitted holding meetings with Georgian citizens last summer to discuss raising “legal funds” for his Left Front movement, the Investigative Committee said last week. He said plans for “unlawful actions” in Russia were never discussed with the Georgians, one of whom was identified only as “Georgy Vasilyevich,” according to the agency.
NTV’s footage showed Udaltsov meeting the head of Georgia’s parliamentary committee on security and defense, Georgi Targamadze, and Georgia’s consul in Moldova, Mikhail Iashvili, the committee said.
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