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Russian prison activist in Germany after raid

November 8, 2017

A police raid has prompted Olga Romanova, the head of a Russian NGO fighting for rights of prisoners, to quit Russia and take up a job in Germany. The authorities had accused Romanova of embezzling funds.

Olga Romanova, Russian activist
Image: DWIWinogradow

The journalist and activist Olga Romanova has decided to stay in Germany due to the "danger" presented by embezzlement accusations against her in Russia.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday, Romanova said the accusations stemmed from Rudi Anatoly Anatolevich, the deputy head of Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). The state prison authorities have repeatedly bumped heads with Romanova's NGO Rus Sidyashchaya, or Russia Behind Bars.

"FSIN is a natural enemy of mankind," Romanova said.

Rudi reportedly claimed that Rus Sidyashchaya misused state money, earmarked for organizing lectures for prisoners and their family members. Romanova claims that all the lectures were held according to plan.

Read more: Putin opponent Navalny freed from jail

Romanova wants to go back home

Police responded to claims of embezzlement by raiding the NGO's offices in June this year. Despite the organization's books being "spotless, like a pharmacy," Romanova decided to leave the country for fear of being arrested.

"I've spent the whole summer in France and Italy […] Near the end of my predetermined stay in the EU, I received an offer to work for a reputable German foundation. I accepted, off course, and arrived to Germany on 1 of September."

Despite new job, Romanova said her "main goal" was to return to Russia some time in the near future.

"I am probably the last person in Russia who would want to emigrate," she said, adding that her NGO still running "like clockwork."

Read more: Pussy Riot members released in Sochi 

'Hardly' an issue for Putin

Commenting on the case on Wednesday, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the state had no information about Romanova's decision. He added that Russian judiciary should deal with the suspicions of embezzlement.

"Many people receive state money through various channels," Peskov said. "The president's administration actively supports this type of volunteering and providing social services, however, every time state funds are provided, they are subjected to strict control," he added.

Responding to reporter's question if President Vladimir Putin intends to interfere in any way, Peskov said the issue was "hardly something the president should be concerned with."

The issue of prisoners' rights is a traditionally sore spot in Russia, with many political opponents of the current regime often spending time behind bars.

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dj/rc (AFP, Interfax)