Police detained Dmitry Gudkov for two days for allegedly unpaid debt on a rented property several years ago.
Russian police on Thursday left in custody in Moscow prominent opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov after detaining him for two days.
Gudkov, a former lawmaker, was arrested for allegedly unpaid debt on a rental property dating back several years. His father has said his son had nothing to do with the property.
Shortly after his release, Gudkov posted a photo of himself on Twitter with the text “Freedom!”
– Dmitry Gudkov (@gudkovd) June 3, 2021
“Thank you all for your support. That’s just thanks to you, ”he told those who wished in one separate tweet.
Gudkov’s lawyer, Mikhail Biryukov, said it was unclear whether his release meant the investigation was still active, according to Russian news reports. Gudkov could face up to five years in prison if charged and found guilty, state news agency TASS reported.
Russia’s opposition says authorities have stepped up an intimidation campaign against dissidents in recent months ahead of a parliamentary vote in September, allegations the Kremlin has rejected.
Police also searched Gudkov’s country house outside Moscow, as well as the homes of his allies and relatives.
The Kremlin critic was released when the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, often called Russian Davos, began on Thursday in Russia’s second city.
President Vladimir Putin will address the forum on Friday, the country’s main showcase for investors.
Gudkov’s unusual release came after a Russian court on Tuesday ordered another well-known Kremlin critic Andrei Pivovarov to be detained for two months in pretrial detention.
Pivovarov, the former chief executive of Open Russia, a recently disbanded pro-democracy group, left a flight to Warsaw on Monday as his plane rolled into take-off.
Police searched his apartment in St. Petersburg overnight and a criminal investigation was launched against the activist for cooperating with an “undesirable organization.” Pivovarov faces six years in prison if convicted.
Open Russia, founded by Putin’s self-exiled critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, announced last week that it would close to protect its members from persecution.
The group was designated an “undesirable” organization in Russia in 2017 under a law targeting groups funded by foreigners accused of political interference.
Earlier, the European Union had called for Gudkov’s release.
“The arrest of opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov has a political motivation,” EU Foreign Minister Peter Stano said on Twitter.
He said the Russian state “must allow and promote the conditions for real political competition.”
Russia: The arrest of opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov @gudkovd has a political motivation. 🇪🇺 calls for the immediate and unconditional release of his opposition and other opposition activists. The state must allow and promote the conditions for real political competition. https://t.co/qnIy6tdyz5
– Peter Stano (@ExtSpoxEU) June 3, 2021
Despite Gudkov’s release, prominent opposition figure Alexey Navalny remains in prison serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence. The Kremlin critic was arrested in January on his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning by a nerve agent who blames the Kremlin, accusations that Russian officials reject.
His arrest sparked protests across Russia that proved to be the biggest show of defiance against the Kremlin in years.