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Russia detains leader of election monitoring group; Moscow court arrests US national for ‘espionage’ – reports

Reuters

Russia detained Grigory Melkonyants, the co-chair of prominent independent vote-monitoring group Golos (Voice), the organisation said on its website on Thursday night.

Law enforcement officers arrived in Melkonyants’ apartment early in the morning and after searching his home, took to him the main department of the Russian Investigative Committee for charges, Russian agencies reported.

Co-chairman of Golos non-governmental organisation Grigory Melkonyants speaks on the phone at his office in Moscow, Russia, on 13th March, 2018.

 Co-chairman of Golos non-governmental organisation Grigory Melkonyants speaks on the phone at his office in Moscow, Russia, on 13th March, 2018. PICTURE: Reuters/Andrew Osborn/File photo

A court is expected to decide on Friday whether Melkonyants will remain in custody, Golos said referring to his lawyer Mikhail Biryukov.

Melkonyants may face up to six years in prison for working with an international organisation, declared “undesirable” by Russian authorities, his lawyer told Russian agencies.

MOSCOW COURT ARRESTS US NATIONAL FOR ‘ESPIONAGE’ – RUSSIAN NEWS AGENCIES

A Moscow court has arrested US citizen of Russian origin Gene Spector on suspicion of espionage, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday.

The agencies provided no details of the charges, but according to RIA, in 2022 Spector was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for his role in bribing the assistant of ex-Russian Deputy PM Arkadiy Dvorkovich.

The court session was held behind closed doors as the case materials are classified, Interfax reported.

Speaking on CNN, White House spokesperson John Kirby said the administration was still collecting information about the case and had no comment yet. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

– MAXIM RODIONOV and KANISHKA SINGH, Washington DC, US/Reuters

A video published by RIA news agency showed three men in plain clothes standing next to Melkonyants inside his home while one of them ordered Melkonyants to put the time on a paper he was signing – 6.45am.

Moscow-based Golos is monitoring election campaigns in dozens of Russian regions ahead of voting scheduled for September.

The group first angered the government by publicising evidence of alleged fraud in a 2011 parliamentary vote that sparked opposition protests, and in the presidential election that returned Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.

The Russian government labelled the group a foreign agent but it continued to work in the country even when Russia intensified a crackdown on dissent after invading Ukraine last year.

The prosecution is likely to be related to the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations, a Montenegro-based non-governmental organisation, Golos said on its website.

Golos stopped its cooperation with ENEMO after Russian authorities banned activities of the network in 2021, the group said.

Russian law enforcement searched homes of a total of 14 members of Golos in eight Russian regions, RIA reported.

 

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