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On Monday, Mr Pivovarov has boarded the Warsaw-bound LOT Polish airlines flight LO686 scheduled to take off at 6:20 pm, but was removed from the plane by Russian authorities. According to the Federal Security Service, the man was on a wanted list- a fact he was unaware of. The flight arrived in Warsaw with a delay of nearly one and a half hours.

Andrei Pivovarov is the former executive director of Open Russia, a pro-democracy organization that has repeatedly criticized the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin himself. In a letter transmitted through his lawyer, Mr Pivovarov said that he was detained for allegedly violating the law on "undesirable organizations". The law, which has been adopted by the Russian Duma in 2015, defines such organizations as those "whose activities may threaten the security and constitutional order of the Russian Federation." Membership in such organizations is punishable by a fine, restriction of freedom, or imprisonment for up to six years.

In his letter, the opposition activist also argues that under Russian law, an organization cannot be punished for its activities if it has been liquidated before the charges have even been brought. Earlier, Mr Pivovarov said that by deciding to end the activities of Open Russia he wanted to protect its members from political persecution. He expected a wave of repression to follow the planned amendment to the Russian Criminal Code. The new bill foresees penalties for those who cooperate with so-called "undesirable organizations." In the case of Open Russia, it would not be too difficult to prove that Mr Pivovarov has exchanged correspondence with the organization of the exiled Russian oligarch and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This would suffice as evidence of a violation.

Before boarding the flight to Warsaw, Mr Pivovarov wrote on social media that he planned to go on holiday.

Authorities have transported the opposition activist to Krasnodar in southern Russia where he awaits his trial.

Repression of political opponents

Russian police have also detained and raided the homes of other opposition figures on Tuesday. In the morning, authorities entered the dacha of Dmitry Gudkov (former Yabloko party MP) and Vitaly Venidiktov (the former head of his office). The police have also detained Alexander Soloviev, a former assistant to Mr Gudkov (he was also the chairman of Open Russia).

Mr Gudkov is one of the founders of United Democrats- an opposition political project created with the support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's organization. It was established to promote civic engagement and coordinate the activities of the opposition during the elections, so that democratic candidates would not get in each other’s way and have a better chance of defeating Putin's United Russia politicians.

Putin looks to Belarus for inspiration

On May 23, under the pretext of an alleged bomb threat, the Belarusian regime forced down a Ryanair flight en route from Athens to Vilnius to arrest Roman Protasevicz, the founder of Belarus’s most popular opposition Telegram channel Nexta. The 26 years old dissident journalist has been living in exile in Poland, as Lukashenko’s regime has put him on the list of terrorists. Under Belarusian law, Mr Protasevich might face life in prison or even the death penalty.

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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