MOSCOW – Moscow police on Saturday briefly detained several opposition leaders as well as a dozen other activists while they were protesting against the intensifying crackdown on Russian opposition.
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon outside the headquarters of Russian security agency FSB, a successor to the KGB, and the office of the Investigative Committee — sometimes called the Russian FBI — to protest the crackdown on the opposition as well as the treatment of leftist activist Leonid Razvozzhayev.
Investigators earlier this week said that Razvozzhayev had turned himself in and confessed to plotting riots. But days later, he disavowed his confession and filed a complaint over what he said was his abduction from Ukraine. Rights activists who visited Razvozzhayev in jail say he had been tortured into confessing.
Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny as well as leftist firebrand Sergei Udaltsov and liberal Ilya Yashin were detained while they were standing in the vicinity of the FSB headquarters with posters saying "I'm against torture and repression". They were released several hours later after they were charged with staging an unsanctioned protest, which carries a fine.
Several dozen activists stood alone at various points along the route between the FSB building and the Investigative Committee headquarters, holding signs in "one-man pickets," the only legally allowed form of protest without prior approval. A few of them were detained outside the police station where the three men were kept while calling for their release.
Navalny said he thought the charges against him were fabricated and expected protesters who witnessed his arrest to support his account in court.
Elsewhere in Moscow, the owner of the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team and former Russian presidential candidate, Mikhail Prokhorov, announced that he's leaving business to focus full-time on politics, returning to the political arena after remaining silent through a five-month Kremlin crackdown on the opposition.
Prokhorov told reporters after the conference that he wants to lead "a third power" in the country, competing both with the Kremlin and the opposition.
The 47-year-old Prokhorov, who is believed to be worth about $13 billion, finished third in Russia's presidential election in March amid speculation that his candidacy was orchestrated by the Kremlin. Though he denied the claim, he was nowhere to be seen as the government launched a crackdown on the opposition this spring, arresting activists and introducing new harsh legislation.
Prokhorov appeared Saturday at the first conference of the party he set up several months ago, announcing that he would put his money in a trust fund and let his partners at the investment vehicle Onexim manage it.
Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report.