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Russia Opens Criminal Probe Into Navalny Lawyer Who Tried To Meet With FSB Agent


Russian opposition activist and lawyer Lyubov Sobol (file photo)
Russian opposition activist and lawyer Lyubov Sobol (file photo)

Russian law enforcement agencies have opened a criminal case against Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for the outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and took her in for questioning, the head of the foundation said on December 25.

FBK Director Ivan Zhdanov said on Twitter that investigators launched a probe into Sobol for trespassing "with the use of violence or a threat to use it" after she rang the doorbell of an agent who has implicated the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning of the 44-year-old Kremlin critic.

Sobol's lawyer Vladimir Voronin told the AFP news agency that the opposition lawyer was currently a witness in the probe but added that he expected Sobol to be charged later on December 25.

There was no immediate comment from Russian authorities.

Earlier on December 25, police raided Sobol’s apartment and took away her computers and phones, Navalny’s supporters said.

"Lyubov Sobol was taken for questioning to the Investigative Committee. The apartment is being searched," the foundation said on Twitter on December 25.

Sobol posted a video on Twitter from inside her apartment before going incommunicado. In the video, her seven-year-old daughter can be heard crying as someone pounds on the front door, demanding it be opened.

"They knock on the door and say the police are here. Apparently, the search will be at my home. I've never had a personal search before. Well, everything happens for the first time. Apparently, because I recently went to Navalny's poisoner, " Sobol says in the video.

Separate CCTV image released by Navalny's allies shows masked men in black uniforms inside Sobol's Moscow residential building.

Russian Security Forces Raid Home Of Navalny Lawyer Sobol
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Sobol was among journalists and political activists who tried to meet with Konstantin Kudryavtsev late in the evening on December 21, the day Navalny published an audio-recording of what appears to be a conversation with Kudryavtsev over the FSB's role in the poisoning.

She was briefly detained at a police station.

Sobol's lawyer said the probe had been launched following a complaint from Kudryavtsev's mother-in-law.

Navalny said the Russian authorities' "hysterical reaction" only proved their guilt.

"You call a killer's doorbell -- they break down your door and take you in for questioning," Navalny wrote on his blog on December 25.

Laboratory tests in three separate European countries, confirmed by the global chemical weapons watchdog, established that Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent.

Russia has rejected calls for an investigation into the poisoning, and denies the involvement of state agents in the case, saying it has yet to be shown any evidence.

Navalny is currently in Germany where he is recovering from the poisoning. He has said he plans to return home an undisclosed date.

The European Union and Britain have imposed asset freezes and travel bans against six senior Russian officials believed to be responsible for the Navalny poisoning, as well as one entity involved in the program that has produced a group of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok.

With reporting by Current Time, Reuters and AFP
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