MOSCOW (AP) — A former mayor of Russia's fourth-largest city was detained on Thursday on charges that could land him behind bars, part of authorities' efforts to muzzle dissent.
Yevgeny Roizman, a sharp critic of the Kremlin, is one of the most visible and charismatic opposition figures in Russia. He enjoyed broad popularity while serving as mayor of Yekaterinburg, a city of 1.5 million people in the Ural Mountains.
Last year, Roizman, 60, who was the mayor from 2013 to 2018, faced accusations of discrediting the Russian military and was barred from attending public events, using the internet, telephone or mail and communicating with anyone other than his lawyers and close family pending his trial.
Police arrested Roizman on Thursday on charges of reposting material containing a reference to the organization led by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny that was banned by authorities. Roizman rejected the accusations, telling a court in Yekaterinburg during a hearing after his detention that he wasn't even registered on that social network. His lawyer said the repost was done by members of one of his numerous support groups.
If convicted, Roizman could face a 15-day arrest and, potentially, new criminal charges later.
Courts repeatedly fined Roizman last year on charges of discrediting the military, paving the way for a criminal case that could be opened for repeat offenders.
Days after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine last year, Russian lawmakers approved legislation that outlawed the alleged disparagment of the Russian military or the spread of “false information” about the country’s military operation in Ukraine. Courts across the country have increasingly handed out prison terms to critics of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
Roizman remains one of the few visible opposition figures in Russia who hadn't yet been been jailed or fled the country under pressure from authorities. A prominent opposition politician, Ilya Yashin, was sentenced to 8½ years in prison on charges of discrediting the military, and another top opposition figure, Vladimir Kara-Murza, has been jailed on the same charges and is now facing trial.