Top Russian opposition leader put under house arrest
Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, center back, speaks at an unsanctioned rally at Pushkin Square in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 17, 2012. (AP / Ivan Sekretarev)
The Associated Press
Published Saturday, February 9, 2013 11:34AM EST
MOSCOW -- A top Russian opposition figure has been placed under house arrest for two months, a move that also bans him from using most forms of communication, including the Internet, telephone and mail.
A Moscow court imposed the restrictions Saturday on Sergei Udaltsov after prosecutors complained he had violated a previous agreement not to leave Moscow.
Udaltsov, one of the most prominent figures of the wave of protests that arose in late 2011, is facing charges in connection with a protest in May that ended in clashes with police and for allegedly plotting to conduct mass disorder aimed at overthrowing the government.
Since Vladimir Putin returned to the Russian presidency in May, authorities have cracked down on opposition, and protests have diminished in frequency and size.
A documentary-style program aired by a Kremlin-friendly TV channel claimed that Udaltsov and his associates met with a Georgian lawmaker last autumn to raise money for organizing riots in Moscow and several other Russian cities. Udaltsov rejected the charges and said the footage was a sham.
Opposition and rights activists have denounced the case against Udaltsov and other activists as a throwback to the times of Soviet-era repression.
Since Putin returned to the Kremlin after a four-year sojourn as prime minister due to term limits, the Kremlin-dominated parliament has passed a series of laws cracking down on dissent. One law increases the fine for taking part in unsanctioned protests 150 fold to 300,000 rubles (nearly $9,000), close to the average annual salary.
Authorities also moved harshly against the feminist-provocateur band Pussy Riot, sentencing two of its members to two years in prison for performing a "punk prayer" performance in Moscow's main cathedral in which they entreated the Virgin Mary to save the country from Putin.