Russia arrests opposition leader for criticizing war in Ukraine | Russia

Russian police have arrested Yevgeny Roizman, a prominent opposition politician and former mayor of Yekaterinburg, for his public criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Roizman, a popular political activist from Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, said he was charged with using the word “invasion” under strict new laws that ban criticism of Russia’s armed forces.

He could face up to five years in prison if convicted, Russian media reported.

A video released by a pro-Kremlin outlet showed masked police wearing body armor bursting into the building where Roizman lives. After a search, Roizman was led out of the apartment past reporters waiting in the stairwell. When asked where he used the word “invasion”, he replied: “I say it everywhere”.

Roizman built a political base through his public outreach and direct and often crude criticism of Russian authorities.

He organized weekly runs through Yekaterinburg where locals could approach him for help, and he founded a museum of religious icons open to the public.

He also regularly trolled and insulted officials on Twitter. He has been fined three times since the start of the war for his public remarks. Repeated violations of the law may lead to a criminal charge.

Roizman is rare among opposition figures for his success in electoral politics. He served as mayor of Yekaterinburg from 2013 to 2018 after winning popular elections to that post. In a sign that his arrest could anger locals, a lawyer said Roizman could be transferred to Moscow by the end of the week.

In an unusual statement, the region’s Kremlin-loyal governor said Roizman deserved “justice and respect and I hope he receives it.” He also said he expected the Roizman Icon Museum to remain open.

Roizman’s arrest was widely expected among the opposition, as most anti-war activists have already been arrested or driven out of the country. Nevertheless, he refused to flee.

Roizman previously said he kept a bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste and other essentials in case he was arrested.

“I now understand how anti-fascists felt during the Third Reich,” he told the Observer in a March interview. “But I can’t run away, it’s unacceptable for me to do this.”

Comments are closed.