Russian opposition politician quits Moscow district role over 'pressure'

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By Euronews
Ilya Yashin is a Russian opposition activist and a municipal deputy of the Krasnoselsky district of Moscow.
Ilya Yashin is a Russian opposition activist and a municipal deputy of the Krasnoselsky district of Moscow.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

A prominent Russian opposition politician has resigned, claiming his team has been pressured by Moscow.

Ilya Yashin, the head of the Krasnoselsky district in the Russian capital city, announced he would be stepping down from his role at the end of July.

In a statement on Facebook, Yashin claimed that the authorities of President Vladimir Putin had been applying increased "pressure" on his administration.

"The prosecutor's office is shaking up the accounting department and the office with endless inspections," he said, adding that his team have spent many hours answering law enforcement questions.

"I think that the prosecutor's office is carrying out a political order which is connected with my opposition activities."

"The aim is to paralyse our work and destroy what we have built during these four years," Yashin added.

Yashin, an outspoken critic of Putin, was appointed head of the Krasnoselsky district, after winning local elections in 2017.

But a recent court decision has barred him from running as a political candidate for three years. Yashin said his lawyers had appealed the "political" verdict and were prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"I realise that it would be impossible to find the truth in a Russian court and the proceedings in the ECHR will take many years. The road to the elections is effectively closed for me," he said on Facebook.

The court's decision was part of a multi-pronged campaign by the Russian authorities to silence dissent and bar Kremlin critics from running for parliament in September's election.

In January, opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested after returning to Russian soil from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Yashin, a close ally of Navalny, had urged Russia's law enforcement to investigate "an attempt at a life of a public figure" and to look into President Putin's possible involvement. Moscow has denied all accusations.

In March, Yashin was also among around 200 people who were detained at a Moscow hotel after participating in a forum of independent members of municipal councils.

Moscow police had said the event had been organised by members of an unnamed "undesirable" group and that the forum violated COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite resigning, Yashin said he would remain a volunteer municipal councillor for the Moscow district, and still hoped to be able to run in the next local elections in the autumn of 2022.

"Politics is not just about the elected office. I am not planning to leave Russia and I will continue to fight to make our country free and happy. We will definitely win."

Yashin also said he would nominate Elena Kotyonochkina to be the district's new head on July 27.

Additional sources • AP