Jailed Russian protester speaks after surprise release

Sergei Abanichev

In this photo taken on Tuesday, Sept 3, 2019, Sergei Abanichev holds a banner with portrait of him reading “release!”, upon his release in Moscow, Russia. Abanichev is one of five people charged with rioting related to this summer’s anti-government protest who had the charges against them abruptly dropped. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

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MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian man suddenly released from prison after rioting charges were dropped says investigators pressured him to confess.

Sergei Abanichev spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday in his first interview after his release from jail.

He was one of five people who were released after charges against them were dropped in a government’s U-turn in the ongoing crackdown on anti-Kremlin protesters.

Abanichev told AP the only specific piece of evidence he was presented was a video showing what the investigators said was him hurling a beer can at the police. Abanichev says it was an empty paper cup he threw away during the commotion.

Analysts have suggested that the sweeping criminal investigation against a random group of protesters was meant to scare off people from attending opposition rallies.

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