Putin Opponent Threatened With Prison Warns of Repression

A Russian lawmaker who’s helped organize protests against Vladimir Putin faces potential criminal charges as the list of opposition figures threatened with prison sentences widens.

The Investigative Committee said it has proof of “illegal business activity” by Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker in the opposition Just Russia party. A criminal case may be opened against Gudkov on charges that carry a maximum penalty of two years in jail, the committee said today on its website.

Putin, 59, who won another six years in the Kremlin in March, has responded to the largest demonstrations since he came to power in 2000 by tightening controls over the Internet and non-governmental organizations and prosecuting opposition activists and leaders. Protest leader and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny faces as long as 10 years in jail after being charged yesterday with embezzlement.

“We are heading toward 1937 -- all that’s left now is for them to shoot the opposition,” Gudkov said by phone, referring to mass trials and repression under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. “This is part of a major crackdown on opposition leaders.”

Gudkov, a reserve colonel in the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, announced in June that he was selling his private security business after it came under pressure from the authorities. He said today he had decided to give the business away to its managers to preserve employees’ jobs, and had lost $10 million to $15 million.

‘New Provocation’

When the first accusations were made by the Investigative Committee in June, Gudkov said on his blog that they amounted to a “new provocation taken against me as an active member of the protest movement.”

Investigators established that Gudkov, who’s also a deputy head of the lower house of parliament’s security committee, illegally engaged in business in Russia and was linked to companies registered in Bulgaria and Gibraltar, according to the statement.

Increasing pressure against dissenters, three members of a Russian all-female punk group are facing as long as seven years in jail for an anti-Putin protest in February inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral. Their trial began this week.

The authorities have charged 15 protesters over clashes with police on the eve of the Russian leader’s May 7 inauguration, and are holding 13 of them in pre-trial detention. Opposition leaders including Navalny also face possible charges of inciting violence against officials that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

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