Russian opposition leaders questioned after rally

AP News
Posted: Jun 13, 2012 7:49 AM
Russian opposition leaders questioned after rally

Two Russian opposition leaders were questioned by investigators on Wednesday, a day after they helped organize the largest protest against Vladimir Putin since his return to the presidency in May.

Anti-corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny and leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov were questioned as part of an investigation into an earlier rally on May 6 that ended in fierce clashes between police and protesters. But they were summoned for interrogation and had their apartments raided on the eve of Tuesday's rally in what was seen as part of Kremlin efforts to discourage people from attending the anti-Putin protests.

Twelve people already have been arrested on criminal charges in connection with the May 6 rally.

"All the questions have been like `Did you organize the riots? Did you finance the riots?,'" Navalny said Wednesday as he headed into the Investigative Committee for a second day of interrogation.

Putin appears frustrated that the protests that drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Moscow ahead of the March presidential election have not died away as many expected. He has increased pressure on the protest leaders, singling out Navalny for particularly harsh treatment.

Navalny's interrogation on Tuesday lasted more than six hours, preventing him from attending the protest rally. The day before, police had turned his apartment upside down during a 12-hour search, while the homes of his parents and in-laws also were searched.

Navalny later tweeted that Wednesday's interrogation was brief and ended after he refused to provide samples of his handwriting.

Udaltsov, who has been arrested more than 100 times and has spent months in prison during his political career, said he would not be intimidated.

"They can summon us for these interrogations day after day, ask endless questions, but I'm telling you _ we won't be intimidated by such methods," he said.

The leader of the Left Front opposition group, Udaltsov has been at the forefront of the anti-Putin protests for several years. He has staged unsanctioned protests, launched numerous hunger strikes and spent weeks in hospitals amid concerns about his health.