MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia refused on Thursday to register a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin planned for Saturday and said some earlier protests were orchestrated by Georgia.
State TV channel Rossiya 24 aired what it said were recordings of talks between Georgian politician Givi Targamadze and Russian opposition activists that the federal Investigative Committee said proved Targamadze was involved in past protests.
“This material contains evidence confirming not only the financing of the Russian opposition by Givi Targamadze but also his clear role in the organization of mass riots,” said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the committee that answers only to Putin.
Russia often accuses the opposition of taking help from abroad and activists say the latest allegations are part of a crackdown against criticism of Putin, who started his third presidential term in May.
Prominent leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov said Moscow city authorities had refused to register Saturday’s planned protest in the capital, increasing the risk of arrests and confrontation with police if opposition activists show up in large numbers.
He said he would still come to a square in Moscow “as a free Russian citizen” on Saturday, a day after he was summoned to the Investigative Committee to testify further over allegations of plotting riots.
Udaltsov and two others have been charge in the case.
Udaltsov was ordered to remain in Moscow pending further investigation, but two lesser-known activists are under arrest with one of them, Leonid Razvozzhayev, saying he was abducted and tortured to confess.
Razvozzhayev has subsequently retracted his confession.
Putin faced the largest wave of protests against his 13-year rule before his return to the Kremlin, but the opposition has lost momentum since then and so far failed to pose a more systematic threat to the authorities.
Putin has insisted in the past that protesters must obey the law and said that any foreign meddling in Russia’s politics is unacceptable.
Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic relations over a brief war in August 2008 that left Moscow recognizing two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent from Georgia.
Georgia’s new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has said, however, that he wants to improve relations with Moscow and the first bilateral talks since the war are expected soon.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Myra MacDonald