MOSCOW — Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov was charged Friday with plotting mass disorder, part of a clampdown by Russian authorities on public dissent, but was unexpectedly allowed to remain free on his own recognizance.
The decision to release him surprised Udaltsov, a 35-year-old socialist, and his attorney, who had predicted Udaltsov would join two associates in jail.
One supporter suggested that the authorities were hoping Udaltsov would flee the country, which would discredit him and deprive his Left Front bloc of its leadership. If convicted of plotting mass disorder, he would face up to 10 years in prison.
Udaltsov and the other two activists were accused based on allegations contained in a documentary that was broadcast Oct. 5 on a Kremlin-friendly television station.
One of the jailed associates, Leonid Razvozzhayev, said he was abducted last week in Ukraine, where he was asking a U.N. refugee agency for asylum. He said he was spirited into Russia, bound and chained, and threatened and deprived of food and water until he signed a confession. He disavowed the confession Thursday, as soon as he saw a lawyer.