Russia's top investigative agency on Thursday charged a lawmaker from the former Soviet republic of Georgia with plotting anti-government riots.
The Investigative Committee said that Givi Targamadze, an ally of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, has been charged in absentia with conspiring with Russian opposition activists to stage mass riots. An international arrest warrant for Targamadze will be issued soon, it said.
The probe dates back to October, when the Kremlin-controlled NTV television station aired a documentary-style film containing what its authors described as secret footage of Russian activists meeting with Targamadze to discuss funding for protests against President Vladimir Putin and plans for organizing riots.
The activists and Targamadze denied they ever met and denounced the film as a sham. But soon after the film was shown, Russian investigators opened an investigation into the claims made by its authors.
Leonid Razvozzhayev, one of the Russian activists targeted by the investigation, claims he was kidnapped in Ukraine in October, returned to Russia, tortured for two days and forced to sign a false confession, which he later retracted. He remains in custody.
Last week, Sergei Udaltsov, one of the most visible leaders behind massive protests against Putin's rule in Moscow and who also figured in the NTV movie, was placed under house arrest.
Commenting on the Russian move, Georgian Prosecutor's General office spokeswoman Khatuna Paichadze said that Targamadze can't be extradited to Russia under Georgian law. She said her office would make a decision on whether to initiate criminal proceedings against him in Georgia after receiving the relevant documents from Russia.
Giorgy Baramidze, a deputy speaker of the Georgian parliament, hailed his ally Targamadze and said that Russian charges against him reflect the "continuation of Putin's struggle against Georgia."