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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pensioner Called an Extremist

A 71-year-old pensioner has been charged with extremism for criticizing Oryol Governor Yegor Stroyev.

The case could raise fears that anti-extremism legislation passed to prevent hate crimes by skinheads is being misused by the authorities.

The pensioner, Pyotr Gagarin, faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

The charges relate to comments Gagarin made during a January protest of about 300 people over the rising cost of utilities and residential services in the city of Oryol, located 380 kilometers southwest of Moscow. The charges were not filed until early August, Noviye Izvestia reported Monday.

Gagarin, a retired driver, has admitted to criticizing Stroyev at the protest but said his remarks did not constitute a crime. Gagarin also has been charged with incitement to extremism and insulting the authorities.

His trial was supposed to have started Tuesday but was postponed until Sept. 4 after the governor and his lawyer failed to show up, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

Critics of the Kremlin have charged that the anti-extremism law, passed in 2002 after a wave of hate crimes committed by skinheads, is being used to target dissent.

A number of liberals have been investigated on suspicion of extremism this year, including human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, political analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky and political scientist Andrei Piontkovsky.