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Russian opposition leader seeks Putin travel ban

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov urged the West on Monday to impose a travel ban on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his government allies for what he termed a crackdown on all forms of dissent.

Nemtsov said the so-called “black list” should include not only Russia’s de facto leader but also his cohorts and stay in effect until the country’s small opposition was allowed to gather and speak through the media.

Russia’s former first deputy prime minister said the restrictions should include “a ban on these citizens’s entry into the European Union and North America, and (include) an arrest of their assets abroad”.

He added that the same restrictions should also apply to the Russian government members’ relatives.

“I think that these measure will lead to democratization,” Nemtsov told reporters two days after his release from jail.

The 51-year-old Nemtsov was among 130 people detained in Moscow and Saint Petersburg on December 31 — the date of traditional end-of-month rallies in which Russians assert their constitutional right to gather in public places.

The Moscow demonstration was sanctioned but still resulted in dozens of arrests that saw the police move against those trying to extend the rally beyond the small space assigned to them on a central Moscow square.

The day of his release was marked by a Russian lawmaker’s request that the prosecutor’s office probe whether Nemtsov — seen as one of Russia’s most liberal politicians — was being funded by the West.

Nemtsov laughed off all such suggestions Monday but lamented that Russia was drifting in the wrong direction despite President Dmitry Medvedev’s repeated promises at broad judicial and political reforms.

He called Medvedev a “weak man” who plays second fiddle to Putin on all decisions concerning the state.

“Medvedev is a colleague of Putin’s who only has a consultative voice,” Nemtsov said.