US concerned over Russian activist’s ’abduction’ and detention
Photo: RIA Novosti
The United States on Thursday expressed alarm over the case of an opposition activist who claims he was abducted from Ukraine by Russian agents, as he retracted an initial confession made to Russian investigators.
Leonid Razvozzhayev, now in a Moscow prison, has told rights activists that he was kidnapped while in Ukraine, brought across the border and maltreated by masked men who pressed him to confess by threatening to harm his family.
"We have shared our concerns with the Russian government and requested that they investigate this matter, " US embassy spokesman Joseph Kruzich said in response to a question from the Russian Kommersant daily.
The US embassy confirmed the original English transcript of his comments.
However the embassys remarks sparked an angry reaction from the Russian foreign ministry, the Interfax news agency reported.
"We are bewildered, to say the least, over such hasty expressions of concern, " an unnamed source in the public relations department of the ministry told the agency.
Razvozzhayev filed a report of kidnapping and a formal retraction of everything he had told investigators, his lawyer Mark Feigin said.
He drew up a "statement saying that he retracts his former evidence, " Feigin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency as he left the prison where the activist is being held.
"He considers that all that he said that was filmed and that he wrote himself was done under pressure."
Razvozzhayev, 39, an aide to an opposition parliamentary deputy, has been charged with plotting mass riots.
Investigators said he confessed as part of a probe into allegations aired in a television documentary about the opposition.
While meeting members of a public group that monitors prisons on Tuesday evening, he claimed he was bundled into a van by masked men in Kiev, where he had been seeking asylum.
The UN refugee agency on Tuesday said it was "deeply concerned" after Razvozzhayev disappeared on Friday during a lunch break as he consulted a legal non-governmental group in Ukraine.
"We have seen very credible reports over the last several days about Leonid Razvozzhayev, including the statement from the UNHCR and human rights activists who visited him in prison, " the US embassy spokesman said.
"We are deeply concerned by these reports and are following the case closely, " he added.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Ukrainian border guards, cited by Interfax, said that Razvozzhayev crossed the border into Russia on October 19 and made no complaint at the time.
But Razvozzhayev told the activists he was driven across the border and tortured in a cellar, with his legs taped up, handcuffed and given no food or drink or access to a toilet for two days.
Razvozzhayev is an assistant to Ilya Ponomaryov, a deputy for A Just Russia party who is one of the most prominent speakers at protest rallies.
He himself is a member of the Left Front radical movement, whose shaven-headed leader Sergei Udaltsov is also a key figure in mass anti-Putin protests. He calls himself a "professional revolutionary" on Facebook.
Russian investigators said Razvozzhayev turned himself in Sunday and admitted to allegations in a recent television film that he and other activists were plotting an uprising funded by a Georgian lawmaker, Givi Targamadze.