Leonid Razvozzhayev spoke quickly from the bed of his one-man jail cell. "I'm scared to stay here alone," he told the group of prison rights activists who had come to visit him. "I'm afraid those men – the ones who took me me, who tortured me – will come back."
Razvozzhayev, a 39-year-old anti-Putin activist and aide to an opposition MP, flew to Ukraine last week amid a spiralling crackdown on Russia's opposition. Just a day after he arrived, Russian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into him, the first step to bringing charges for allegedly organising mass unrest and a potential 10-year jail sentence. Thus Razvozzhayev began the long process of bidding for political asylum – and in the midst of it disappeared, only to turn up at a Moscow prison two days later.
Razvozzhayev's story – one of alleged abduction, torture, death threats and forced confessions – has sent a bolt of fear and anger through those opposed to Russia's powerful president. It is the latest, and perhaps most convoluted, tale to emerge from the Kremlin's attempt to put down the opposition that emerged to challenge Putin's return to power earlier this year.