Brussels (Brussels Morning) Russia’s Investigative Committee pressed fresh charges against prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Wednesday, accusing him of creating an organisation which “infringes on the personality and rights of citizens”, a crime that could carry a sentence of up to three years imprisonment.
Navalny is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down for allegedly breaching previously suspended sentence terms, in a case condemned by the EU and western democracies.
Navalny’s initial suspended sentence was handed out in a graft case which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) subsequently determined had been politically motivated, forcing Russia to pay damages to Navalny.
The suspended sentence was nevertheless used as a pretext to arrest Navalny upon his arrival to Russia in February, following treatment for poisoning in Germany. The fact that the poisoning was most likely inflicted by Russian intelligence operatives, and that he was transferred to Germany with President Vladimir Putin’s approval, makes his arrest for failing to report to Moscow prison authorities on time especially problematic.
The most recent charges brought against him claim that his Anti-Corruption Foundation had encouraged Russian citizens to engage in illegal acts by taking part in unauthorised protests, when thousands of demonstrators demanded his release from prison earlier this year.
Navalny’s organisations were previously outlawed in June, having been declared “extremist organisations” by a Russian court, an action reflecting the increased crackdown on opposition and critical voices in Russia ahead of parliamentary elections in September. Many of Navalny’s allies have fled Russia, fearing persecution, while his organisations have suspended all activities, fearful of facing further criminal charges.
The Anti-Corruption Foundation had documented suspected cases of graft involving President Putin and his close associates. Meanwhile, other political networks associated with Navalny had attempted to improve the odds of opposition politicians winning by campaigning for candidates most likely to unseat Kremlin-backed officials.