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Navalny Could Face More Jail Time As Russia Announces New Criminal Charge

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Ivan Zhdanov (from left), Lyubov Sobol, and Aleksei Navalny take part in a protest march in Moscow in February 2020.

MOSCOW -- Russian authorities have charged Aleksei Navalny with an additional crime, a move that could prolong the jailed opposition politician's stay behind bars if he is convicted.

The Investigative Committee said on August 11 it had charged Navalny with creating an organization that infringes on the rights and personal safety of citizens.

The outspoken Kremlin critic, who is currently serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for parole violations on a conviction he calls trumped up, faces up to an additional three years in prison if found guilty of the new charges.

A jail term of that length could keep Navalny in custody past the next presidential election in 2024, when Vladimir Putin's current six-year term in the Kremlin is due to end.

The Investigative Committee said the charges were linked to the activities of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which it said had been established to "persuade citizens to carry out unlawful activities."

Russian authorities labeled FBK as "extremist" and banned it in June.

Navalny's close associates Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, who are currently residing abroad, are also suspects in the case, it said.

Zhdanov is the former director of FBK and Volkov headed Navalny's regional network before its dissolution.

Zhdanov and Volkov are accused of other crimes they say are part of a campaign to crush their activism.

Supporters who post on social media under the name Team Navalny described the accusation as "the latest meaningless charge."

"No one infringes on the personality and rights of citizens like Putin himself and all his henchmen, including the Investigative Committee," they said on Telegram messenger.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he received life-saving treatment for a poisoning attack in Siberia in August 2020.

He blames the poisoning with a Soviet-style chemical nerve agent on President Vladimir Putin and Russia's security services. The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning.

Navalny was sent to a prison in the Vladimir region after a Moscow court in February ruled that while in Germany, he had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered to be politically motivated.

Navalny's incarceration sparked numerous protests across Russia that were violently dispersed by police.

The United States and EU have demanded Russian authorities release Navalny, calling his case politically motivated.

Amnesty International has recognized him a prisoner of conscience.

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