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Russian Prosecutors Target Navalny In Probe Of Anticorruption Group

Russian anticorruption campaigner and opposition figure Aleksei Navalny says he "will rush to disappoint the prosecutors" regarding his group's funding.
Russian anticorruption campaigner and opposition figure Aleksei Navalny says he "will rush to disappoint the prosecutors" regarding his group's funding.

Russian prosecutors have launched a probe into opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation, demanding documentation about its financing and publications and singling out a Washington Post article about Muslims in Russia.

Moscow city prosecutors delivered an April 6 order to the nongovernmental organization ordering it to hand over all records about its sources of financing over the past three years and how this money was spent.

The probe was the latest action by Russian authorities targeting Navalny, a driving force behind street protests in 2011-12. He is serving two suspended sentences on embezzlement convictions he calls politically motivated.

His foundation has published numerous investigations of alleged corruption among Russia's political elite, including pricey real estate owned by senior officials or their families that is far beyond the means of those living on the wages of a civil servant.

The prosecutors' order, a copy of which Navalny posted on his website, asks specifically for information about grants the Anticorruption Foundation has received.

In 2012, Russia adopted a law requiring any NGO that receives funding from abroad and engages in political activity to formally register as a "foreign agent," part of what is widely seen as broader crackdown against Kremlin critics in recent years.

"I will rush to disappoint the prosecutors," Navalny wrote in an April 6 post on his website. "The only source of [the Anticorruption Foundation's] financing are donations from Russian citizens. Several thousand people transfer their money to us, and all of this is reflected directly in our bookkeeping."

Prosecutors also demanded that the organization turn over copies of all of its media publications and appearances over the past three years, as well as any documents related to how they were arranged.

The order specifically identifies a March 7 article, titled Are Russia's 20 Million Muslims Seething About Putin Bombing Syria? that was co-authored by the organization's chief sociologist and published by The Washington Post.

The article examines whether President Vladimir Putin's air campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad could "backfire at home" by angering Russian Muslims, a majority of whom are Sunni.

The prosecutors' order said the probe was launched on the basis of an appeal by Kantemir Khurtayev, the leader of a Russian youth organization who last month accused Navalny of stoking ethnic and religious hatred.

Khurtayev specifically cited the Washington Post article in an interview with the pro-Kremlin website Vzglyad.

Magomed Selimkhanov, a member of Putin's United Russia party who represents the mainly Muslim Chechnya region in the lower house of parliament, said last month that he had asked prosecutors and the Justice Ministry to consider designating Navalny's organization a "foreign agent."

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