Andrei Pivovarov, leader of the pro-democracy organization Open Russia, was arrested Monday evening. He was taken from a plane in St.
Petersburg by the Russian security service FSB, which was stopped just before take-off. He reported this via his Twitter account.
“I just got off the plane in Pulkovo. I went through customs, no questions were asked. The plane was already taxiing when it suddenly stopped, and the police arrived,” the leader of the Russian opposition party Open Russia wrote on Twitter.
Andei Pivovarov says that he was then plucked from the plane. He would be suspected of leading an ‘undesirable’ organization. According to his team, who manages his social media, he has since been questioned. If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison.
Open Russia was funded by former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was imprisoned in Russia for ten years before fleeing to London to support the Russian opposition.
Last week, Open Russia (Otkrytaya Rossiya in Russian) decided to cease all activities. According to Andrei Pivovarov, the decision was made to protect supporters from criminal prosecution.
In the run-up to the September elections, pressure on opposition groups in Russia has increased. Dozens of organizations have been designated as ‘undesirable’. In 2015, membership of such organizations became a criminal offence.
The main Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, is in prison. He was jailed for 2.5 years in February for an old fraud case.
On May 23, 26-year-old Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian journalist, was arrested in Minsk after the plane he was on was distracted. It is generally assumed that the Belarusian authorities forced the plane to divert to Minsk, which allowed the journalist to be arrested. The European Union spoke of a ‘hijacking’.