Russian politician detained for criticizing Ukraine invasion

August 24, 2022 - 6:59 PM
Russian officers
Russian law enforcement officers stand guard outside the office of Roizman Charity Fund, after its founder and politician Yevgeny Roizman was reportedly detained in Yekaterinburg, Russia August 24, 2022. (Reuters/Stringer)

LONDON — Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman was shown being detained at his home in a video published on social media on Wednesday, in the latest move by authorities to punish critics of the war in Ukraine.

Video of the arrest showed Roizman, former mayor of the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, being taken away by law enforcement officials.

Roizman was seen in the video telling reporters that he was being investigated under a law against discrediting the armed forces. He said he was being arrested “basically for one phrase, ‘the invasion of Ukraine'”.

Asked where he had said that, he replied: “I’ve said it everywhere and I’ll say it now.”

State news agency TASS cited Yekaterinburg security services as confirming the reason for the arrest, saying Roizman was being investigated for “discrediting the Russian army”.

The offense, newly introduced after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” and people risk prosecution if they use the words “war” or “invasion”.

Roizman, an outspoken supporter of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, became one of Russia’s most prominent opposition figures in 2013, after he was elected mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city. It was one of a string of opposition wins that capitalized on discontent with Vladimir Putin’s return as Russian president in 2012.

Popular and charismatic, Roizman was nevertheless controversial for an aggressive crackdown on drug users in the city. In 2018, he resigned as mayor after regional lawmakers voted to abolish the job in what Roizman said was a politically motivated move against him.

Dmitry Gudkov, a former opposition member of Russia’s State Duma, wrote on Telegram that Roizman’s arrest was “revenge for speaking truth about a war that has already been going for half a year”.

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie