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15 Jul, 2020 14:14

Long live Lenin? Russia arrests elderly man who denies collapse of USSR for ‘plotting to overthrow government’

Long live Lenin? Russia arrests elderly man who denies collapse of USSR for ‘plotting to overthrow government’

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has opened an extremism case against a disabled pensioner who refuses to admit the Soviet Union no longer exists. The former superpower imploded in 1991, replaced by 15 independent states.

The Central District Court in the Siberian city of Omsk, about 2,500km east of Moscow, accused 72-year-old Vladimir Besklebny of being the organizer of an extremist community planning an “armed seizure of power” and the overthrow of the Russian government. 

Besklebny is the Omsk regional chairman of the self-declared ‘Council of People's Deputies of the Russian Soviet Republic’.

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Besklebny is allegedly part of a national network of people born in the USSR who still call themselves ‘Soviet Citizens’. Members of the group normally refuse official Russian documents, such as passports, and support the non-payment of tax.

“You saw him, he is disabled,” said Vladimir Zhigalin, one of Besklebny's associates. “Is it not absurd for our law enforcement bodies to suspect him of seizing power? Or do they have nothing else to do?”

According to the investigation, Zhigalin is a member of the same organization and coordinates the group's actions in a Siberian village. Along with four other members of the group, Zhigalin was searched at the same time Besklebny was arrested.

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Besklebny's offices were also raided, and law enforcement officers found documents and a computer, along with a Soviet passport.

On Sunday July 12, fellow members of Besklebny’s group staged a protest in the city of Omsk.

The charge of extremism carries a punishment of up to 10 years in jail.

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