Newspaper article International New York Times

Leading Critic of Putin Placed under House Arrest

Newspaper article International New York Times

Leading Critic of Putin Placed under House Arrest

Article excerpt

Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia's leading opposition figure, is also barred from using the Internet or phone for two months, removing him from public life.

Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia's leading opposition figure, was placed under house arrest on Friday and ordered not use the Internet or telephone for a period of two months, thus removing President Vladimir V. Putin's fiercest critic from public life.

The stiff restrictions in what is widely seen as a politically charged prosecution will effectively muzzle Mr. Navalny, the blogger- cum-politician who has used social media to trumpet mass demonstrations against the Kremlin and release damning profiles of corrupt practices in government tenders, the most recent asserting that billions of dollars were stolen in the preparations for the Sochi Olympics.

"Their only goal is to stop my political activities," Mr. Navalny said Monday, addressing Judge Artur Karpov in front of a packed hall at a courthouse in downtown Moscow. "They want to stop me from coordinating our anticorruption investigations."

The ruling, which also prohibits Mr. Navalny from speaking with the media or accepting visitors other than close family members, capped a week in which the Russian authorities showed a renewed, zealous will to disrupt demonstrations, detain large numbers of people and hand down tough sentences to curtail internal dissent since the Sochi Games ended last Sunday.

In the months before the Games, Mr. Putin gave amnesty to several of Russia's most prominent prisoners, including the former oligarch Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky and two members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot, in what was seen as a nod to international criticism of their prosecutions. With the Games now over, the Kremlin has taken its most decisive step yet to silence Mr. Navalny as it continues to dampen the protest mood that erupted in the country two years ago.

"It is easy to see that with the Olympics over, there's no need to put up a kind face for anyone anymore," Sergey Nikitin, the head of the Russian branch of Amnesty International, said in a telephone interview on Friday. …

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