Russia: New charge for jailed critic Navalny
Jailed Russian critic Alexei Navalny has been hit with a new criminal charge. Russia's Investigative Committee said Navalny had started a non-profit organization that allegedly incited Russians to break the law. The committee is in charge of investigating serious crimes. If convicted, Navalny could face another three years behind bars.
This is the latest blow to the opposition leader who is currently serving a 2½ year sentence for parole violations. He was arrested in January after returning from Germany where he had received treatment for poisoning, something he blames the government for perpetrating. The Russian government denies the allegation.
Russian authorities appear to be on a drive to stifle any dissent ahead of parliamentary elections due to take place in September.
Two of the Kremlin critic's closest allies, Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, have also been targeted by authorities.
On Tuesday, the Investigative Committee said it was pursuing a criminal investigation into the pair for raising funds for an extremist group. The charge carries a jail term of up to eight years.
In a statement made by the Investigative Committee, Navalny and his allies are alleged to have used the Anti-Corruption Foundation to encourage Russians to join illegal protests in January.
A thorn in the side of President Vladimir Putin
Navalny who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics, began serving a 2½ year sentence in February. He was found to have violated a suspended sentence for an embezzlement conviction.
In June the foundation and regional offices were declared extremist by a Russian court.
Fifty websites run by his team and those supporting his cause were shut down on allegations they were disseminating extremist propaganda.
Navalny's allies have linked this latest crackdown to the upcoming elections.
Putin who has already enjoyed more than twenty years in power managed to get a number of constitutional amendments in 2020. This potentially could see the 68-year-old leader at the helm until 2036.
kb/csb (AP, Reuters)