Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that he has ordered the arrest of a leader of a pro-Kremlin activist group in a Moscow court who is suspected of plotting a coup against him.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement that Vladimir Putin had ordered the detention of Dmitry Kiselyov, an opposition activist and member of the Council of Europe.
Kiselysov is alleged to have orchestrated a fake coup attempt last month against the Kremlin leader, which has sparked a crisis of confidence in the ruling establishment.
Kiseslyov is accused of trying to topple the Kremlin in the lead-up to elections on May 25, but a court ordered him to stand trial in March on charges of sedition.
A court earlier sentenced Kiseilyov to two years in prison on March 11.
Kitesi Vostokov, a former Kremlin official who is now a leading member of a Moscow political party, was sentenced to seven years in a jail for his role in the coup attempt.
In a televised speech on Monday, Peskov accused Kisesilyov of plotting to overthrow the Kremlin by undermining the country’s political stability, and accused him of having helped “the enemy”.
Peskov denied Kiseyskyov’s accusations of being an agent of the Kremlin.
Kisenlyov was arrested on March 8, and a video has since emerged showing him in the Kremlin wearing a mask, wearing a balaclava and carrying a rifle.
The Kremlin said Kisesyov was “a supporter of a criminal gang”, and that he was acting as a courier for a criminal group.
The trial of Kisesiyov was postponed for several weeks after the court ruled he was not a member of that group.
Kislenko said the video that showed Kisesulyov was the result of an investigation by police and intelligence services.
He added that the video was not the work of Kiseyov, but that it was a copy of a recording of the phone call he had made with a person in the group, and was being circulated by the opposition.
Peskov later said Kiseulyov “had not done anything illegal” and that it would be wrong to call him a traitor, adding that “he did not want to go to jail”.
Putin on Monday ordered the Russian police to arrest Kisesylov and “to bring him before the court immediately.”
“I hope that he will be released soon,” Putin said, referring to Kiseleyov.
“There is nothing he did that is criminal, so we will arrest him immediately.”
Putin said the court decision was a “serious mistake” that was “not right”.
“It is clear that a criminal organisation or a criminal cell has been operating here,” Putin told reporters, adding, “We have ordered the immediate arrest of Mr Kisesalyov.”
Putin’s statement came as the European Union was considering tougher sanctions against Russia over the coup.
European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini said in an interview on Monday with French TV station iTele that the EU would consider more measures in response to Russia’s actions.
Mogherin said the EU had made “concrete proposals” to Moscow and that the European Commission would seek to impose further sanctions against the Russian government.
“The EU is convinced that a strong response to the threat posed by the illegal activities of Russian officials and people must be pursued,” Mogherinni said.
The Russian foreign ministry said on Tuesday it was disappointed that European leaders would not be able to find a way out of the crisis.
“We do not accept this decision, and we will be looking for ways to avoid it,” the ministry said in statement.
The move comes as Russia continues to be rocked by a series of scandals involving Kremlin officials, including the alleged involvement of Russian military officers in a doping program for athletes.
The scandal has shaken the country, and many politicians are calling for Putin to step down as president.