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Alexei Navalny: Russian investigators open new fraud probe involving Navalny

Comes after Krelim critic was given less than 24 hours to return to Moscow or face prison

Sam Hancock
Wednesday 30 December 2020 01:28 GMT
Critics believe Putin does not want Navalny to return home
Critics believe Putin does not want Navalny to return home (AP)

Alexei Navalny now faces fraud charges from Russia after state investigators announced this evening that a new criminal case had been launched against the Kremlin critic, investigating the legitimacy of some of his financials.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which reviews serious crimes, on Tuesday night accused Mr Navalny and other unnamed individuals of large-scale fraud, claiming he had spent 356 million roubles (£3.6m) donated to organisations he controls on “personal needs”.

The committee said in a statement this included purchasing goods and services and covering personal expenses such as overseas trips. 

It comes just one day after Russia’s Federal Prison Service (FSIN) claimed Mr Navalny had violated the terms of a suspended prison sentence he is still serving out from a 2014 conviction, and threatened to throw him in jail if he did not return to Russia by Tuesday morning.

The service gave Mr Navalny, who remains in Germany since being airlifted there in August following a suspected Novichok attack, less than 24 hours to report to a Moscow office in person - or face jail.

It has been suggested that both this ultimatum and the new criminal case against Vladimir Putin’s leading critic is a clear sign that Russia does not wish Mr Navalny to return from Berlin at all, likely because his failed assassination attempt led to a host of European nations publicly condemning the Kremlin for its action.

Russian state officials have remained adamant there is no evidence to suggest Mr Navalny was ever even poisoned but that, if he was, it had nothing to do with them. 

The Kremlin continues to hold the line that Mr Navalny is free to return home just like any other Russian citizen, something he has said he still plans to do - just not yet.

Mr Navalny responded to the case on Twitter, saying the investigative committee brought “shame on Russia” and were “traitors to the motherland, criminals and worthless idlers”. 

“Where is the criminal case against the FSB poisoners? Where are the criminal cases against Putin and Medvedev?” he wrote in a tweet, before saying in another: “They will try to put me in jail because I did not die.”

The Kremlin reportedly declined to comment on any legal action against Mr Navalny, Reuters reports, though it is clear he believes Mr Putin is the one behind the attempts to have him put behind bars.

“Putin is personally behind everything. He is a thief, ready to kill those who refuse to remain silent about his theft,” Mr Navalny added.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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