Russian opposition activist placed in custody on charges linked to online comment

A Russian left-wing opposition activist who criticized the Kremlin but backed the war in Ukraine was ordered Friday to remain in custody pending his trial on charges linked to his online comment.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ruled to keep Sergei Udaltsov in custody until Feb. 15 on charges of “justifying terrorism” as the probe is continuing. Udaltsov said the accusations relate to his posts in support of members of a Marxist group who were arrested for creating a “terrorist community” in the city of Ufa, about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) east of Moscow. He could face five years in prison if convicted.

Speaking during Friday’s hearing, Udaltsov rejected the charges as “ravings” before the judge closed the hearings to the public at the request of prosecutors who argued the case materials were sensitive, according to the state Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies.

Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front, has been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin but supported Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

He participated in the 2011-12 protests that saw the biggest demonstrations in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, joining other opposition activists, including now-imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

While multiple activists, lawyers and opposition figures have been detained and jailed in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, Udaltsov stands out as he has supported the war and the annexation of Crimea, while remaining critical of Putin.

Udaltsov was detained on Thursday after police searched his home and confiscated his electronic devices.

In December, a Moscow court sentenced Udaltsov to 40 hours of compulsory labor for violating procedures relating to organizing a rally after he was detained on Red Square, where he tried to unfurl a flag with the image of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Tass said.

Udaltsov was previously imprisoned in 2014 and sentenced to 4½ years on charges related to his role in organizing a 2012 demonstration against Putin that turned violent. He protested his sentence by going on a hunger strike before being released in 2017.

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