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1 Jun, 2021 10:01

Ex-head of disgraced 1990s oligarch Khodorkovsky’s 'Open Russia' dramatically detained for working with ‘undesirable’ organization

Ex-head of disgraced 1990s oligarch Khodorkovsky’s 'Open Russia' dramatically detained for working with ‘undesirable’ organization

Andrey Pivovarov, the former director of the dissolved Open Russia organization, is in police custody after being arrested on Monday night. He is suspected of cooperating with a foreign NGO officially listed as 'undesirable.'

Pivovarov was pulled off an international flight to Warsaw, Poland at St. Peterburg’s Pulkovo Airport before the aircraft had the chance to take off. According to the activist, the plane had to be stopped on the runway for him to be detained. He was then taken to an Investigative Committee office to be interrogated.

Writing on Telegram, Pivovarov explained that his property was being searched. He will soon be flown to the southern city of Krasnodar, where a criminal case was filed against him for cooperating with an undesirable organization. He blasted the accusation as “nonsense.”

Pivovarov’s former employer Open Russia, founded by disgraced former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, revealed last week that it would end its operations in the country. The group plans to shut its regional offices over concerns its members and supporters may soon be targeted for prosecution.

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While not branded as ‘undesirable’ itself, the London-based international branch of the group, called the Open Russia Civic Movement, is on the government's list. The organization’s leadership opted to dissolve with the belief they would eventually be linked to the foreign branch and could be targeted by law enforcement, and potentially be given years behind bars.

Just a few days after they acted on their decision, Pivovarov now stands accused of sharing a Facebook post of another organization. The activist shared a notification from the ‘United Democrats’ in August last year, while in Krasnodar. United Democrats is a group formed in 2018 to support independent anti-Kremlin political candidates who wish to run for local office. Although it is also not listed as undesirable, it has previously been linked by Russian authorities to the British branch of Open Russia.

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A day later, on Tuesday, three other opposition figures said that their property was being searched. The lawyers of another former head of Open Russia, Alexander Solovyov revealed he was being investigated as part of a case about the non-payment of debt on a non-residential premises. Some sources have suggested that he is considered a witness.

Writing on Telegram, opposition politician and former MP Dmitry Gudkov, who is also the son of former KGB officer Gennady Gudkov, revealed that his property was also being inspected by the authorities, noting that he did not know the “formal reason” why. Gudkov’s assistant Vitaly Venidiktov’s home was also searched by cops.

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