Multiple media outlets were reporting on Sunday that opposition figure Lyubov Sobol left Russia for Turkey on Saturday evening, just days ahead of parole-like restrictions coming into force.
Pro-government outlets such as RT and REN TV and news agency Interfax carried the reports. The chief editor of the opposition-friendly Ekho Moskvy also said she left the country.
Sobol, 33, is among the most prominent of opposition figures connected to the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. She worked as a lawyer for his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which was formally banned in June after being outlawed and labeled “extremist” by the Russian authorities.
Sobol was sentenced to one and a half years of parole-like conditions for attending a January 23 opposition rally in Moscow which the authorities say violated COVID-19 restrictions.
She faced the possibility of not leaving her home at night between the hours of 10pm and 6am, the inability to change her residence without notice, attend mass or other events, and travel outside Moscow and the Moscow region without informing the authorities and obtaining permission.
The lawyer said the case and the charges leveled against her were politically motivated.
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As one of the most well-known in Navalny’s circle, Sobol was also one of the few among his allies who had not yet left Russia out of fear of prosecution.
After she received a suspended sentence that put great restrictions on her freedom but had yet to come into effect this month, she told Ekho Moskvy, “Essentially, you can interpret this as the possibility of leaving the country.”
Sobol could not be reached for comment Sunday and her friends and allies declined to speak on her behalf.
Russian authorities have initiated an ongoing crackdown on opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the September parliamentary elections.
Navalny is serving two and a half years in a penal colony for an alleged parole violation on an embezzlement case he says was trumped up.
His parole violations are rooted in the charge that he failed to check in with the Russian police after his treatment for Novichok poisoning in a German hospital.
ar/dj (Reuters, Interfax)