In a new sign of a widening crackdown on Russia's opposition, investigators yesterday opened a criminal probe against leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov and several other activists for allegedly plotting mass riots.
Russia's top investigative agency said it would also investigate claims made in a recent documentary aired by a Kremlin-friendly TV channel that opposition leaders worked with Georgian officials to arrange terrorist attacks across Russia.
Udaltsov, 35, was one of the most recognisable faces of last winter's anti-government protests in Moscow, which were legal and peaceful.
Investigators, backed by armed men wearing ski masks, searched Udaltsov's Moscow apartment for five hours yesterday. The home of his parents was also searched, said Violetta Volkova, Udaltsov's lawyer.
"I'm going to hold on until the end, and I won't be quiet," Udaltsov said as he left his home for questioning, escorted by police. "It's a wave of new repression."
A documentary aired last week on NTV showed what it says was footage of the Left Front leader meeting with officials from neighbouring Georgia to discuss raising US$200 million for protests against President Vladimir Putin, and plans for organising riots in Moscow.
The Investigative Committee said that it would pursue criminal cases against not only Russians, but also citizens of Georgia and other unspecified countries.
Georgian lawmaker Givi Targamadze, who was featured in the NTV programme as the mastermind of Georgian support, told Georgian media last week he had never met Udaltsov.
Udaltsov insisted the footage in the documentary had been doctored. The Investigative Committee denied this, saying it had carefully studied the footage.