Russian authorities say they have detained several backers of a self-exiled Kremlin critic in the Moscow area, claiming they were plotting to trigger riots by attacking government buildings and police during a politically charged holiday weekend.
In a November 3 statement, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said the suspects were members of a "conspiratorial cell" of Artpodgotovka (Artillery Bombardment), a movement established by outspoken opposition activist Vyacheslav Maltsev.
The FSB also said that in joint operations with police, it had broken up groups of Artpodgotovka members in Krasnoyarsk, Krasnodar, Kazan, Samara, and Saratov -- major provincial centers across Russia. It did not say how many people were detained.
Maltsev, who has described himself as a nationalist and anarchist, has said on YouTube that Russia is up for a "revolution" this weekend as the country prepares to mark People's Unity Day on November 4 and the centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on November 7.
Nationalists traditionally hold rallies on November 4 and Russians nostalgic for the Soviet Union, such as the Communists, celebrate on November 7.
The FSB statement alleged that the suspects detained in and around Moscow had planned to spark "mass disorder" by throwing Molotov cocktails at administrative buildings and attacking police.
It said that "all members of the cell" were detained and 15 bottles containing flammable liquid were confiscated. The detainees could be charged with terrorist crimes, it said.
Maltsev, a former lawmaker in the Saratov region, unsuccessfully ran for the national parliament in 2016. He fled Russia in July after the authorities launched an investigation into his statements.
Prosecutors in Moscow said last month that Maltsev was in France and planned to obtain political asylum there.
On October 26, the Krasnoyarsk regional court ruled that the Artpodgotovka movement was extremist and banned its activities in Russia. On October 10, a Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for Maltsev.
In its statement, the FSB accused Maltsev of establishing Artpodgotovka with the aim of "organizing a revolution in Russia" and claimed that after he left the country, its remaining members "formed groups to conduct high-profile extremist actions aimed at destabilizing the sociopolitical situation."
There was no immediate comment from Maltsev.
With reporting by AP, TASS, RIA Novosti, and Interfax