Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says his finances, along those of his wife, children, parents, and the head of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) have been frozen without explanation in a move to discredit and disgrace him.
The staunch Kremlin critic wrote on his website on March 3 that bank accounts and payment cards for his family, and for FBK head Ivan Zhdanov and his family, had been blocked.
At the same time, Navalny said he obtained information that billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has strong links to Russia's leadership, was suing him for unknown reasons.
According to Navalny and Zhdanov, a check of their banks online showed that they both had negative balances of 75.5 million rubles ($1,130,000).
Navalny accused President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the situation, alleging that by freezing his and his associate's accounts, the Kremlin was trying to impede the FBK's activities at a time when many Russians are becoming disillusioned with the country's current leadership.
Deripaska's lawyer, Aleksei Melnikov, confirmed to the TASS news agency on March 3 that his client was suing Navalny for "damaging his business reputation."
According to Melnikov, Deripaska wants Navalny to retract public statements he made via YouTube earlier in the year where he alleged the tycoon had taken sizable loans from the government without repaying them.
"We insist that such information is not true and ask a court to oblige Navalny to retract the statements and pay the symbolic amount of one ruble for moral damages," Melnikov said.
Navalny and the FBK regularly publish materials exposing the luxurious properties and wealth of Russian officials, accusing them of corruption. None of the reports, however, have sparked legal investigations by the authorities.
Navalny, a lawyer by training who has doggedly pursued evidence of corruption at the highest level of Russian politics, founded the FBK in 2011.
Its investigations regularly provoke public uproar over the misuse of state funds, such as in 2017, when an FBK probe into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's wealth became a catalyst for a wave of mass rallies that erupted across Russia.