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Opposition Activist Navalny Charged With Fraud, Money Laundering

Russia opposition blogger and activist Aleksei Navalny
Russia opposition blogger and activist Aleksei Navalny
Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, one of the most prominent leaders of protests against President Vladimir Putin, has been charged with multimillion fraud and money-laundering.

Russia's Investigative Committee said on December 20 Navalny has been charged with embezzling more than 55 million rubles ($1.79 million).

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Navalny's younger brother, Oleg, has also been charged in the case.

They both deny any wrongdoing.

The charges reportedly could carry prison terms of up to three years.

Markin said the Navalny brothers have been barred from leaving Moscow.

Aleksei Navalny has said earlier that the charges are a reprisal for his role in organizing antigovernment protests.

The 36-year-old lawyer and blogger first came to prominence by exposing corruption in state-controlled companies.

He then spearheaded massive antigovernment demonstrations following last December's disputed parliamentary elections.

The December 20 charges are not the first filed against Navalny.

Navalny was charged in July with stealing 16 million rubles (about $500,000) from a timber company and could face up to 10 years in prison, if found guilty.

Navalny has called those charges "absurd" and "shameless," and part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit him.

Since Putin won a third term as president in March, authorities have increasingly pursued legal action against opposition leaders and protesters.

Legislation has been passed which dramatically raised fines for participating in unauthorized rallies and also imposed tight curbs on nongovernmental organizations.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS

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