The leader of the pro-democratic organization Open Russia was taken out of a plane in St. Petersburg. Andrei Pivovarov‘s plane was already taxiing and was about to leave when it was stopped, as reported via Pivovarov’s Twitter account.
Pivovarov says that he was then picked from the plane. He would be suspected of running an ‘unwanted’ organization. Pivovarov‘s team, which now manages his account, says that he has been interrogated by now. If he’s convicted, he could get years in jail.
Last week, Pivovarov announced that Open Russia is ceasefire in the country to protect members from persecution. In the run-up to the September elections, pressure has been increased on opposition groups. Dozens of organizations have been identified as ‘undesirable’. In 2015, membership of such organisations became punishable.
Pivovarov called the decision to abolish Open Russia de facto “terribly sad”, adding that he would continue to try to bring about political change on a personal level. Open Russia was funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch who spent ten years in prison in Russia and then fled abroad to support the Russian opposition from there.
Open Russia has been active in Russia for more than 20 years and has intervened, among other things, against a constitutional change that allows President Putin to remain in power until 2036.
Russia says that through such organizations the West is trying to undermine the country. With this argument, organisations that are financed from abroad are obliged to register as a ‘foreign agent’.
The main Russian opposition leader, Aleksey Navalny, is in prison. He got two and a half years in jail in February because of an old fraud case. In that case, he was given a suspended sentence; because he moved to Germany after a poisoning, he would not have been obliged to report.