Ex-Putin speechwriter put on Russian wanted list

MOSCOW -- Police in Russia placed a former speechwriter for President Vladimir Putin on a wanted list for criminal suspects, the latest step in a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

Abbas Gallyamov wrote speeches for Putin during the Russian leader's 2008-12 stint as prime minister. Gallyamov later became an outspoken political consultant and analyst who was frequently quoted by Russian and foreign media. He has lived abroad in recent years.

On Friday, Russian news outlets and an Associated Press reporter discovered Gallyamov listed in the Interior Ministry's database. His entry said he was wanted "in relation to a Criminal Code article" but did not include the law he was accused of breaking.

Russia's Justice Ministry added Gallyamov last month to its register of foreign agents, a designation that brings additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations aimed at undermining the recipient's credibility.

The ministry said Gallyamov "distributed materials created by foreign agents to an unlimited circle of people, spoke out against the special military operation in Ukraine, (and) participated as an expert and respondent on information platforms provided by foreign structures."

Gallyamov told the AP on Friday that he learned he was on a wanted list from the media. No law enforcement agency has been in touch, so he doesn't know what charge he faces in Russia.

"I presume that formally it's the offense of discrediting the army," Gallyamov said in a phone interview. "It is being used against anyone who refuses to amplify the Kremlin's playbook and tries to conduct an objective, impartial analysis of what's going on."

Discrediting the Russian armed forces became a crime under a new law adopted after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022. Kremlin critics have been regularly charged under the law.

Gallyamov described the move against him as part of the Russian government's "intimidation strategy."

"It's not an attempt to get to me -- it is impossible. It's a message for the rest," he said. "As in, 'Don't criticize, don't think that your independent view of what's happening will remain unpunished.'"

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