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Criminal Case Opened Against Russian Opposition Figure Navalny For Suspected Libel

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Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Russian investigators have opened a criminal investigation against opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for suspected libel over comments he made on social media.

The Investigative Committee on June 15 accused Navalny of libeling a World War II veteran who was featured in a video clip with other Russians expressing support for proposed constitutional reforms.

In a social-media post on June 2, Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics, described those in the video as "traitors," "people with no conscience," and "corrupt lackeys."

In its statement, the Investigative Committee said the comments contained "deliberately false information denigrating the honor and dignity" of the WWII veteran.

It said the probe was still under way.

Navalny faces penalties ranging from a fine of 1 million rubles ($14,255) to 240 hours of community service if convicted.

In recent months, Russia's state-run media outlets have shown videos of WWII veterans, celebrities, and ordinary people expressing their support for proposed constitutional amendments to be put to a national vote scheduled for July 1.

Among other changes, the reform would allow Putin to stay in power after his current second consecutive presidential term ends in 2024.

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Navalny, 44, has endured multiple incarcerations in recent years, a barred attempt to run for president, and a hamstrung bid for the Moscow mayor's post.

He was barred from running for president in 2018 due to a tax-fraud conviction that he has called trumped-up.

In March, Navalny and his associate Ivan Zhdanov said that their bank accounts had been emptied and all their payment cards and those of relatives were blocked in what they described as a move to discredit and disgrace them.

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