Russia Brings a New Criminal Charge Against Navalny
MOSCOW – Russian authorities on Wednesday announced a new criminal charge against Aleksei A. Navalny, signaling that they would try to keep the opposition leader jailed behind bars until well after the country’s presidential election in 2024.
The Russian commission of inquiry said in a statement that Mr. Navalny was accused of creating an organization that “undermines the personal integrity and rights of citizens,” a crime punishable by up to to three years in prison. Mr Navalny was jailed in January on parole violation and sentenced to two and a half years in prison which expires at the end of 2023.
The investigative committee, a powerful law enforcement body, alleged that Navalny broke the law by setting up his Anti-Corruption Foundation, a Russian group banned as an extremist earlier this year.
“The foundation’s activities were to encourage citizens to commit illegal acts,” such as attending unauthorized demonstrations, according to the committee’s statement.
The Anti-Corruption Foundation produced Mr. Navalny’s best-known material. His skillfully conducted investigations into the misdeeds and secrets of Russia’s elite, such as a hidden Black Sea estate that is said to be a presidential palace, garnered millions of views on YouTube.
The organization also, according to prosecutors, sought to overthrow “the foundations of constitutional order”.
After years of tolerating Mr. Navalny’s opposition, the government of President Vladimir V. Putin has changed course.
Mr Navalny nearly died last year after being poisoned by a nerve agent, in what he and Western officials have described as an attempted assassination of the Kremlin. He spent months seeking treatment and recovery in Germany.
Upon his return to Russia in January, he was immediately arrested on charges that his stay in Germany had violated the terms of his parole from an earlier conviction. His imprisonment sparked protests across Russia.
Since his organizations are now declared extremists, anyone who has worked with him is liable to prosecution.
In years past, the Kremlin feared imprisoning Mr. Navalny for fear of a public backlash. But with the new charges, authorities are signaling they are ready to keep Mr Navalny locked up for years to come. That would mean that in 2024 – when Mr Putin is expected to run for a fifth term as president – his most prominent opponent would still be in jail.
“No one violates personal integrity and the rights of citizens as much as Putin himself and all his henchmen, including the investigative committee, do,” Navalny’s team said in a statement. message posted on the Telegram social network in response to the new accusations.
Two collaborators of Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, have also been charged with crimes. But like many of his associates, they are now out of the country, seeking refuge from prosecution while trying to use the internet to influence Russian policy from exile. They are working to roll out a coordinated protest vote in next month’s national legislative elections, in the hope that they will be able to loosen Mr Putin’s grip on the country’s legislature.
“We have to come together and be smart about how we vote,” a report on Mr Navalny’s Telegram account said on Wednesday.
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