Kremlin downplays 'hooligan' attack on opposition leader

Kremlin downplays 'hooligan' attack on opposition leader
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, December 10, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

Moscow - The Kremlin on Wednesday downplayed a restaurant attack on opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov as a "hooligan stunt" and denied it was linked to a threat from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Late Tuesday, a group of 10 men approached Kasyanov in a central Moscow restaurant and "shouted threats" before throwing a cake at him, the Parnas party leader said in a statement.

Kasyanov, who as a former prime minister is guarded by federal security services, said he filed a police report over "threats to my life and safety." He described the attackers as "non-Slavic" in appearance. His fellow party member Natalya Pelevina wrote on Twitter they were speaking Chechen.

Last week, Chechen leader Kadyrov posted on his Instagram an image of Kasyanov and his deputy apparently in the crosshairs of a sniper's rifle.

Kadyrov added the caption: "Whoever did not understand, will understand now!" Kasyanov asked security services and investigators to carry out a formal probe into Kadyrov's post as a death threat.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the restaurant incident was unrelated to Kadyrov's threat, however.

"Here you should not equate anyone with the Chechen leadership," Peskov told journalists.

"We are talking about a hooligan stunt, which of course should be condemned," he said, adding that any questions should be addressed to the Federal Guard Service, the equivalent of the US Secret Service, which protects Kasyanov.

Kadyrov in turn apparently posted a mocking comment from his Instagram account on a report on the restaurant attack on a Chechen news site: "Me again)))!!?:" Moscow police briefly detained three Chechen police officers outside the restaurant, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported, citing its own sources.

Kasyanov did not identify the Chechen officers as his attackers but the reason for their presence was unclear, it reported.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead in the back in February last year as he crossed a bridge near the Kremlin after dining in central Moscow.

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