Russian investigators have accused jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny of violating the rights of the country’s citizens and posing a hazard to the public over the purported actions of one of his political campaigning groups.
In a statement published by the Investigative Committee of Russia on Wednesday, officials announced that the activist’s Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) will be charged with “encouraging citizens to commit illegal acts.”
Established in 2011, the foundation was registered as a foreign agent over links to overseas funding, before being deemed an extremist organization by a court in June and subsequently liquidated. Two of Navalny’s most prominent allies, Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, who are both currently living abroad, also face charges for their criminal involvement with the foundation.
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Navalny, already serving time in a prison colony for financial crimes, is looking at a maximum sentence of three years added to his sentence over the new allegations. After Tuesday’s announcement, Zhdanov and Volkov could each face up to eight years according to the Criminal Code of Russia.
Prosecutors also claim that the FBK encouraged the public to attend unauthorized protests in cities across the country, in contravention of Covid-19 pandemic laws, over the course of two weekends in January. Tens of thousands took to the streets to demonstrate against Navalny’s arrest, and organizers have since faced criminal charges.
“Navalny was certainly aware of the illegal nature of the planned events,” wrote Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee. “[He] was aware that administrative responsibility is to be expected for participation in unauthorized rallies.”
Navalny has been at the center of a series of legal battles in recent months. Returning to Moscow in January from Berlin, after recovering from what he and his German doctors allege to have been a poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok, he was detained for violating the terms of his parole. The campaigner had been handed a suspended sentence for fraud in 2014 over a purported scheme to pocket cash from French cosmetics firm Yves Rocher.
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