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Russian politician detained for criticism

Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman has been shown being detained at his home in a video published on social media, in the latest move by authorities to punish critics of the war in Ukraine.

Video of the arrest published on Wednesday showed Roizman, former mayor of the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, being taken away by law enforcement officials.

Roizman was seen in the video telling reporters he was being investigated under a law against discrediting the armed forces. He said he was being arrested “basically for one phrase, ‘the invasion of Ukraine'”.

Asked where he had said that, he replied: “I’ve said it everywhere and I’ll say it now.”

In a second video published by state-owned news agency RIA, Roizman said as he was led away: “In principle, the essence is that I called the war a war. That’s it. Unfortunately, I have no defence.”

State news agency TASS cited Yekaterinburg security services as confirming the reason for the arrest, saying Roizman was being investigated for “discrediting the Russian army”.

The offence, newly introduced after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” and people risk prosecution if they use the words “war” or “invasion”.

Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov wrote on Telegram that Russian courts had so far dealt with about 3500 cases of alleged discrediting of the armed forces, and nearly all those involved had been found guilty.

The law allows for initial offences to be treated as “administrative violations” punishable by fines, but repeat offenders risk criminal prosecution, he said.

Opposition politician Ilya Yashin and former state television journalist and anti-war protester Marina Ovsyannikova are currently facing trial under the law.

Roizman, an outspoken supporter of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, became one of Russia’s most prominent opposition figures in 2013, after he was elected mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city.

It was one of a string of opposition wins that capitalised on discontent with Vladimir Putin’s return as Russian president in 2012.

In an unusual video message posted on Telegram, Yevgeny Kuyvashev, the Kremlin-loyal governor of the Sverdlovsk region which includes Yekaterinburg, said the ex-mayor deserved “justice and respect and I hope he will receive them”.

Ivan Pavlov, an exiled lawyer known for defending Russian opposition figures, also expressed support for Roizman on Telegram.

“Strength and support to Yevgeny and everyone who remains in Russia and continues fighting against the junta,” he wrote.

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