Moscow court convicts Udaltsov and Razvozzhaev on ‘riots’ charges
An ‘authorized protest’ was held outside the courtroom with around 20 protesters holding banners demanding freedom for the two men.
Leonid Razvozzhaev, the Russian asylum seeker abducted in Kyiv and taken to Moscow has been convicted, together with Left Front activist Sergei Udaltsov of ‘organizing mass riots”.Udaltsov’s statement in court that both men take a ‘patriotic stand’ with this clearly meaning for him support for annexation of the Crimea and the Kremlin-backed militants in eastern Ukraine.
If this was intended to sway the court, it did not, but then acquittal in this seriously flawed case was not anticipated. The guilty verdict was announced by Moscow City Court judge Alexander Zamashnyuk on Thursday afternoon. The sentences are still to be announced, however the prosecutor has asked for 8 years for each man.
Whatever the men’s views, the charges against them, linked with the anti-Putin protests on Bolotnaya Square on May 6 2012, were clearly trumped up, and the case against Razvozzhaev showed frightening disregard for the rule of law.
Leonid Razvozzhaev was abducted in the middle of the day on Oct 17, 2012 when he left to get something to eat while completing his application for asylum at a Kyiv partner to the UNHCR partner. His cries for help were heard from the office, and he was seen being forced into a car with Ukrainian number plates. He was then taken across the border into Russia, where on 19 October a Moscow court remanded him in custody for 2 months, with this later extended. There had been no extradition request and Razvozzaev was in Ukraine legally. He was also, effectively, an asylum seeker and therefore under international protection.
The UNHCR were swift in issuing a statement of protest. The Ukrainian authorities said nothing and never made any protest, nor did the Human Rights Ombudsperson, Valeria Lutkovska.
The authorities in Russia claimed that Razvozzhaev had “handed himself in” and “confessed” to organization of mass riots as per an anti-opposition film on the pro-Kremlin NTV channel. Razvozzhaev was able from the courtroom to shout that he had been tortured into ‘confessing’.
This may have been one of the reasons why a criminal investigation in Siberia over an alleged robbery in 1998 was reinstated. Razvozzhaev was for some time moved to Siberia, making access to him difficult.
These charges were later discarded as time-barred, however Razvozzhaev was also charged with illegally crossing the Russia-Ukraine border. This he denies and it did not coincide with the evidence from the Ukrainian authorities. None of this worried the court, and it would seem that he has been convicted on all counts.
Both men denied organizing mass riots and also disputed that such riots even took place. The repressive measures against participants in the protests on Bolotnaya Square were especially severe, with Vladimir Putin clearly deciding to come down heavily on those who came out onto the street to protest against his third term as president and elections widely seen as rigged.