On Saturday Moscow’s Basmanny Court sentenced the leader of the opposition Left Front Movement accused of plotting mass riots in Russian cities and towns, Sergei Udaltsov to house arrest. He is forbidden to leave his flat, use the Internet, phones and come into touch with his associates until April 6. Udaltsov’s lawyers do not rule out that his house arrest may turn into a real prison sentence.
The Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily recalled that Udaltsov is one of the persons involved into the criminal case on mass riots on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on May 6, which was marred by violence against representatives of the authorities. Moreover, the opposition leader is accused of plotting mass riots on the territory of Russia. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said “the main reason for changing the measure of restraint for Udaltsov is that he has repeatedly violated his recognizance not to leave.” “Udaltsov has not been living at his place of domicile, his mobile phones are often switched off, which makes it difficult to summon him to investigators. Moreover he does not inform investigators of the real place of his stay,” he said.
Left Front head Sergei Udaltsov accused of plotting mass riots became the first opposition leader put under arrest, the Kommersant business daily said. “He takes part in rallies, makes a lot of noise and as the authorities see it there is too much harm from his activities,” a member of the opposition Solidarity movement, Sergei Davidis, said. “It would be good for them if he leaves the country and then it would be possible for them to announce him a criminal, but he continues his activities and does not leave and house arrest is a kind of examination of public opinion.”
Lawyer Sergei Badamshin, who works on the so-called “Bolotnaya” case, said Udaltsov’s house arrest means that investigators has decided to focus on suspected organizers of clashes between police and demonstrators, which proved the result of the sanctioned March of Millions rally on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square last May. The daily recalled that twenty people remain on remand on charges of mass riots and attacks on police. On January 10 the Investigative Committee merged the “Bolotnaya” case and the case on plotting mass riots. “The court has already received the so-called big “Bolotnaya” case. Most suspected perpetrators have already been studying materials of these criminal cases. Only orchestrators are left. Probably, this list will include Udaltsov and his two associates,” Badamshin said. Official accusations of plotting mass riots on Bolotnaya Square can be put forward against Sergei Udaltsov already in March.
The opposition leader called the request for his house arrest as purely political, Novye Izvestiya wrote. “All arguments of the Investigative Committee saying that my children stay in Ukraine and I have a foreign travel passport were known to investigators already in October. This did not prevent them from choosing recognizance not to leave as my punishment. My public activity annoys the authorities. They want to put me under house arrest without the right to go outdoors, which means that I will be fully cut from public life,” he said soon after the trial.
“There are two roads for Udaltsov to go after his house arrest – to a pre-trial detention centre and through it to a colony, therefore no need for cherishing illusions. Absolutely all persons involved in this case will find themselves in colonies,” Udaltsov’s lawyer Violetta Volkova told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. However, lawyers plan to appeal against the verdict in a higher court soon.