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Russia opposition activist commits suicide in Netherlands

Russian opposition supporters attend the rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration on May 6, 2012
Russian opposition supporters attend the rally on the eve of president elect Vladimir Putin's inauguration for a third Kremlin term in central St. Petersburg, on May 6, 2012. A Russian opposition activist who was seeking political asylum in the Netherland

A Russian opposition activist who was seeking political asylum in the Netherlands has committed suicide while being held in a refugee centre, friends and associates said on Thursday.

Alexander Dolmatov fled Russia after the authorities searched his home in June to determine his role in a violent rally held outside the Kremlin on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's May 7 swearing-in to a third term.

There were conflicting reports about the immediate circumstances of Dolmatov's death.

The Human Rights Association of Attorneys of Russia said he had "committed suicide (Wednesday) in an Amsterdam centre for refugees."

It added that a decision on his asylum request had been due "within a matter of days".

But the respected Gazeta.ru news reported that Dolmatov had days earlier sent his mother a telephone text message saying he was being held in a Rotterdam jail.

The news report said he was in fact being prepared for extradition and had committed suicide as a result.

A Russian embassy official confirmed Dolmatov's death to the Interfax news agency but did not specify in which city it occurred.

The activist's initial request for asylum had been denied and he was awaiting a ruling on his appeal.

Dolmatov was a member of the Other Russia movement led by writer and radical leftist dissident Eduard Limonov.

"This is a sad and delicate case," Limonov told Interfax.

"We have to figure out the circumstances of what happened. But everything points to this just being a tragedy."

Senior Other Russia member Alexander Averin said the Russian government was indirectly responsible for the activist's death.

"The role our authorities played in bringing Dolmatov to this state is clear," Averin tweeted.

"The role of the Dutch is to be determined."

More than 400 people were detained over the May 6 anti-Putin protest, which ended up being the most violent demonstration of all those held in the year since the Russian strongman announced his decision to return to the Kremlin.

One protest participant who admitted attacking a policeman was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail, while cases against more than 12 others are pending.

The authorities are also probing top opposition leaders such as popular anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny for their part in organising the mass disturbance.

The frequency and strength of the opposition protests have diminished since Putin's return to power and his decision to unleash a series of measures aimed at restricting the financing and freedoms of some of the largest opposition groups.

Navalny and other opposition leaders such as the socialite-turned-Kremlin critic Ksenya Sobchak face up to 10 years in prison if tried and convicted of organising mass unrest on May 6.

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