Left Front leader detained for allegedly justifying terrorism

Sergey Udaltsov, the leader of Russia’s umbrella leftist organisation the Left Front, was detained by police in Moscow on Thursday and charged with justifying terrorism, his lawyer Violetta Volkova announced.

Update 5:18 pm

A court in Moscow has remanded Sergey Udaltsov in custody until 15 February, Russian independent media outlet Mediazona reported from outside the court. Journalists were not admitted to the hearing.

Udaltsov said the charges related to posts on his Telegram channel about the arrests of members of a Marxist group on terror charges in the city of Ufa, in central Russia’s Bashkortostan in 2020, and that he was innocent of the charges. He said the case against him had been brought due to his political activity ahead of March’s presidential election.

“We support Vladimir Putin’s opponents. I think this is one of the main reasons for my detention. There is clearly no place for dissent in Russia at all,” Udaltsov said.

If found guilty, Udaltsov could face up to seven years in prison. A Moscow court is due to decide on Friday whether to remand Udaltsov in custody, though the basis for the arrest has not been made public.

Udaltsov’s lawyers had signed a non-disclosure agreement, Volkova said, meaning she was unable to comment on the grounds for the charges or clarify whether Udaltsov had admitted his guilt. “The lawyer is always of the same view as the defendant”, Volkova said, adding that “as a lawyer, I believe that no crime has been committed.”

Udaltsov wrote on his Telegram channel early on Thursday morning that the police had come to his apartment with a search warrant.

On 21 December, a Moscow court sentenced Udaltsov to 40 hours of community service for violating rules around holding a public protest. That same day, police had detained Udaltsov on Red Square as he attempted to unfurl a flag bearing the image of Joseph Stalin.

In 2014, Udaltsov was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for causing “mass riots” on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 for his part in the “March of Millions”, a huge public protest against Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency.

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