Moscow Detains Ex-Russian Mayor and Critic of Ukraine War

Russian law enforcement has detained a critic of the Kremlin and former mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city on charges of discrediting Russian troops online in the latest move by Moscow to punish critics of its war in Ukraine.

The opposition politician Evgeny Roizman, who served as mayor from 2013 to 2018 in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg, was arrested in his apartment and the police also seized his personal items, such as computer equipment.

The authorities also targeted his foundation, as its head confirmed to local media.

He later confirmed his status as a detainee and explained the accusations against him, saying he’s reportedly suspected of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces on his YouTube channel by criticizing the Ukraine war Moscow insists should be called a special military operation.

Roizman also emphasized that the investigation against him was not initiated by the local authorities but from Moscow and that the case against him is over one phrase about Ukraine.

Roizman, an outspoken critic of the Russian government, was charged under a new law adopted after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The court in Ekaterinburg found Roizman in violation of the law by publicly discrediting the military on several occasions since it became a fineable offense in Russia, which has accumulated him around $2,500 in fines.

However, a repeat violation of this kind may be considered a criminal offense under Russian law, and he now faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Up until Wednesday, Roizman was one of the most visible Russian opposition figures who had not been jailed or fled the country under pressure from the authorities after Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza, two other prominent opposition politicians, were arrested under the same law and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

As of mid-August, according to data from the Net Freedoms, a legal aid group focusing on free speech cases, there were 79 criminal cases on charges of spreading false information about the Russian military and up to 4,000 administrative cases on charges of disparaging the Russian Army forces.