Family members appeal for mercy for Russian radical party activists

Relatives of jailed youth activists urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon them Tuesday, arguing that the right-wing party members were trying to help their country when they seized a Kremlin-controlled building for a protest in December.

Parents were permitted into the Kremlin to hand over a letter for Putin, begging him to show mercy and free members of the National Bolshevik Party. The activists protesting social policies were arrested after blockading themselves in a room at the presidential information administration and waving a banner reading "Putin Quit Your Job!"

"The past four months has been nothing but sleepless nights and crying and worrying about our children," said Valentina Dolgova, the mother of 18-year-old Oksana Dolgova. "They're not criminals. They were just trying to defend pensioners."

Prosecutors had accused the group of attempting to seize power violently, but later charged them with taking part in mass unrest. The activists face up to 10 years in prison.

Forty people were jailed, though one was later set free because he was a minor.

Members of the same right-wing party received five years for a similar protest at the Health Ministry. Activists broke into the ministry on Aug. 2, forced personnel to leave and threw portraits of Putin and other officials out the windows.

The activists said they were protesting Kremlin-backed legislation that converts in-kind social benefits for the disabled, veterans and pensioners to cash payments.

Associated Press

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