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Leftist activists convicted of masterminding anti-government riots

Published time: July 24, 2014 12:29
Edited time: July 25, 2014 14:51
Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, left, charged with organizing mass riots at the Moscow City Court hearing on the merits of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev's criminal case July 24, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, left, charged with organizing mass riots at the Moscow City Court hearing on the merits of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev's criminal case July 24, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

The Moscow City Court has convicted two key figures from the fringe leftist opposition of organizing mass unrest at the 2012 state-sanctioned rally against alleged violations at parliamentary polls.

The head of the unregistered political movement Leftist Front, Sergey Udaltsov, and his closest aide, Leonid Razvozzhayev, have been sentenced to 4.5 years behind bars.

Previously, prosecutors demanded that the duo be sentenced to eight years in prison. The maximum punishment for organizing mass unrest which results in violence or destruction of property is 10 years behind bars.

The ruling is the culmination of the resonant Bolotnaya Square case that has already resulted in several convictions and sentences, as well as one court order of compulsory psychiatric treatment. Also, several people convicted win this case have already been released under a recent amnesty.

The unlawful actions took place at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012, shortly before Vladimir Putin’s presidential inauguration. On that day several Russian opposition parties held a sanctioned rally against alleged violations during the 2011 parliamentary polls.

At first the march went peacefully, but then some of the protesters started to violate the conditions of the event and clash with policemen who wanted to restore order. As a result the rally was dispersed and many people were detained. Police established the identities of most active rioters, found and charged them.

Investigators have established that the situation was prepared and provoked by several leftist activists, headed by Udaltsov, and Razvozzhayev who also planned to repeat the riots in other parts of the Russian Federation. Law enforcers also claimed that the operation was ordered and financed by Georgian politician Givi Targamadze, described by the mass media as a leading expert in the so-called ‘color revolutions’ – street protests against allegedly undemocratic steps of the authorities that lead to quick change of the political regime.

As the investigation progressed, Russia’s top law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee released a hidden camera video record of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev meeting with Targamadze in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, discussing the details of their operation in Russia. The committee also started a criminal case against the Georgian politician, but so far cannot bring him to justice because he lives abroad and has been cautious enough not to enter Russia.

Udaltsov at first denied ever meeting Targamadze, then changed his plea and said that he only met him to discuss some common projects in the liquor business. He also said that the meeting with Targamadze had been organized by Leftist Front activist Konstantin Lebedev, and Razvozzhayev had only driven them from Moscow to Minsk.

However, investigators were using Lebedev’s testimony as another key piece of evidence. He entered a plea deal and received a sentence of two-and-a-half years, which was consumed almost completely by the pre-trial custody period. In early May, Lebedev was released.

Even before the court announced its verdict, the defense attorney said that he planned to appeal the sentence as “illegal and unfounded.”

After the sentence was pronounced Sergey Udaltsov was taken to a detention center where he immediately went on hunger strike protesting the court ruling. A spokesperson for the Moscow department of the Federal Prison Service, Sergey Tsygankov, told reporters on Friday that after this the activist was placed in solitary confinement and under medical supervision.