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October 22, 2012

Russia Arrests Second Opposition Activist

by VOA News

Russian investigators say they have arrested a second opposition activist in a crackdown against opponents of President Vladimir Putin, after the activist turned himself in.

In a statement, Russia's Investigations Committee says Leonid Razvozzhayev, an assistant deputy of the opposition Just Russia party, admitted to involvement in organizing mass disturbances in Russia and taking part in May riots in Moscow.

But the activist's supporters say he was kidnapped in Ukraine, where he had gone to apply for refugee status.  A video on the website LifeNews shows Razvozzhayev shouting to reporters after his arrest Sunday that he was "tortured" and "stolen" out of Ukraine.

Razvozzhayev is the second suspect arrested in a probe launched last week against Left Front party leader Sergei Udaltsov and party member Konstantin Lebedev, who is in police custody.  

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the two convicted members of the anti-Kremlin all-female punk band Pussy Riot said they have been sent to prison camps far from Moscow.

Attorney Mark Feygin said Maria Alekhina was transferred to the Perm region in the Ural mountains and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to the central province of Mordovia.

The two, along with a third band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for an unsanctioned protest at a Moscow cathedral.

Alekhina and Tolokonnikova lost their appeals earlier this month.  A judge suspended Samutsevich's sentence, saying guards threw her out of the cathedral before she could take part in the performance.

The trio was arrested on the altar of Russia’s most prominent Orthodox cathedral in January, after they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver them from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Samutsevich on Friday filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, accusing Russia of violating her right to free speech and illegally detaining her in jail for six months.

The women have argued their impromptu performance was political in nature and not an attack on religion.