A spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee said a criminal probe of an opposition leader became a federal case because of his fierce antigovernment activities.
Lawyer and blogger Aleksei Navalny goes on trial next week on charges of stealing timber worth almost $500,000 in Russia's Kirov Province.
In an interview published on April 12 in the "Izvestia" daily, Vladimir Markin said "banal embezzlement" cases like Navalny's would normally be handled by local authorities.
He said that when someone "teases the authorities," it attracts the Investigative Committee's attention and the case is expedited.
In 2011 and 2012, Navalny exposed official corruption and led protests in Moscow against Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency.
Earlier, Russian officials denied there was any political consideration in Navalny's case.
Last week, Navalny voiced his presidential ambitions in a televised interview.
Based on reporting by "Izvestia," Interfax, and AP