Russia on Friday, Aug. 19, placed the co-chair of independent election monitoring group Golos in pre-trial detention until at least October 17, a court spokesperson told AFP.

Grigory Melkonyants was detained Thursday on suspicion of working with an "undesirable organization", as security forces raided the homes of other Golos members.

"By decision of the Basmanny District Court, a measure of restraint in the form of detention until October 17, 2023 was chosen against the accused Grigory Melkonyants," the court said.

Video footage from the court showed an impassive and handcuffed Melkonyants being led from the courtroom -- the hint of a smile on his face.

His lawyer Mikhail Biryukov told reporters he would appeal the decision.

"With this case (the authorities) probably want to intimidate many independent observers, so they give up monitoring (the elections in Russia), or keep silent about what they see during these elections," Biryukov said.

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Since Russia launched full-scale hostilities against Ukraine last year, authorities in the country have intensified their crackdown on critical voices.

Melkonyants's lawyer said his client's detention was related to Golos's work with the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations, which was declared "undesirable" in Russia in 2021.

The "undesirable" label has been applied to dozens of organisations inside Russia, and puts staff members of targeted groups at risk of prosecution.

The action against Golos comes as Russia gears up for regional elections next month, and as President Vladimir Putin looks set for re-election in 2024.

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