“It’s a turning point,” said Andrei Piontkovsky, a political analyst and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Either we head toward an openly fascist regime, or we stop it now.”
The pursuit of Udaltsov, the 35-year-old leader of the Left Front bloc, and assertions that Razvozzhayev was abducted in Kiev and then coerced for nearly three days before turning up in custody in Moscow represent a new level of confrontation between Putin and his opponents.
“They are taking tactics developed against terrorists and using them against political opponents,” said Vladimir Pastukhov, a visiting fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, who has been an adviser to Russia’s Constitutional Court. “They have started calling everyone who opposes them a terrorist.”
Investigators opened a criminal case against Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev and another activist on Oct. 17 on suspicion of organizing mass protests, based on information from a documentary made by a Kremlin-friendly television station. Udaltsov was questioned and freed on his own recognizance, Razvozzhayev could not be found and the third man, Konstantin Lebedev, was detained.
On Oct. 19, Razvozzhayev was in Kiev seeking asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, according to a statement from the agency. A lawyer from another agency was interviewing Razvozzhayev, who disappeared during a lunch break, leaving his belongings behind.
Russian authorities said Monday that he turned himself in Sunday and voluntarily wrote a 10-page confession, admitting to the charges against him.
On Tuesday night, members of the Public Oversight Commission — citizens who monitor prison conditions — spoke to Razvozzhayev in the Lefortovo prison, once the infamous KGB prison.
They say Razvozzhayev told them he was grabbed on the street in Ukraine, pushed into a van, driven across the border with his head covered and confined to a basement. There he was handcuffed, his legs were taped together, and he was deprived of food and toilet for two days.
His interrogators threatened his wife and children, he said, and he was told he would be injected with a serum that would make him ill and possibly permanently disabled.
“What we heard was shocking,” said Valery Borshchov, head of the commission. “We have a new phenomenon, a new method for fighting dissent.”
On Thursday night, Razvozzhayev finally saw his lawyer, Mark Feygin, who told reporters that he had repeated he was kidnapped.