MOSCOW, October 8 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti)
Russian opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov said on Monday he had been summoned by investigators over allegations aired on federal television that he had conspired to launch a violent revolution.
The summons came less than 72 hours after state-run television channel NTV broadcast what it said was secretly-filmed footage of Udaltsov meeting leading Georgian politician Givi Targamadze to discuss plans to seize power in cities across Russia, including the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
The grainy, low quality footage also showed the two men discussing an offer by Andrei Borodin, the self-exiled, ex-head of Bank of Moscow, to contribute $50 million to the protest movement. Borodin also allegedly pledged to obtain another $150 million from other Russian emigres living in London.
“It’s not a criminal case yet. They are carrying out inquires,” Left Front leader Udaltsov told RIA Novosti. “But I have nothing to hide. I didn’t engage in a conspiracy to seize power in Kaliningrad, or anywhere else.”
Udaltsov said he had been summoned to appear at the headquarters of the powerful Investigation Committee on Wednesday. The Investigation Committee has not yet confirmed the summons.
The maximum custodial sentence for state treason in Russia is twenty years.
Udaltsov has said the footage aired by NTV on Friday evening is a fake and he will seek the advice of his lawyers. On Saturday he alleged in a Twitter post that the documentary was the start of new “wave or repression” that would target the leaders of the now 10-month-old protest movement against the rule of President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s Communist Party also said on Sunday it believes the footage is fake. A group of ex-paratroopers depicted as part of the alleged plot to overthrow Putin has also slammed the documentary as “complete lies” and said it will sue for slander.
Targamadze, the head of Georgian parliament’s defense and security committee and a close ally of President Mikheil Saakashvili, also slammed the documentary in an interview with Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, calling it “propaganda.”
The NTV documentary said Targamadze had helped organize the “color revolutions” that swept opposition leaders into power in Georgia and Ukraine in the 2000s amid mass protests over election-rigging allegations.
Another opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, is facing up to ten years behind bars after prosecutors reopened in July a 2009 embezzlement allegation that had already been investigated twice without charges being brought. Navalny has called the charges “strange and absurd.”
A number of other opposition figures have also faced legal, financial and business problems since Putin returned to the Kremlin in May amid violent protests. But Putin has denied a crackdown on the leaders of unprecedented protests against his rule, saying everyone is obliged to “comply with the law.”
NTV made its name as a pioneering TV channel in the post-Soviet period, but was taken off the air in 2001 as part of Putin’s reining in of the country’s mass media. The channel was later reopened after being taken over by state energy giant Gazprom. It has broadcast a number of controversial documentaries this year, including one that alleged protesters at anti-Kremlin demonstrators had been paid “cookies and cash” to attend. An NTV documentary on anti-Putin punks Pussy Riot aired last month portrayed the group and their supporters as part of a “demonic,” foreign-backed plot aimed at inciting revolution in Russia.
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