Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny faces up to 10 years extra jail time after Russian prosecutors launched new investigation into his ‘extremist network’
- Navalny, 45, has been in jail for two and a half years for ‘parole violations’
- He now faces a new case that could see another decade behind bars
- Case accuses Putin critic of founding and leading an ‘extremist group’
- It accuses Navalny of trying to foment a ‘violent power shift’
Alexei Navalny is again being prosecuted for leading an ‘extremist network’ that could put him behind bars for another 10 years.
The 45-year-old Vladimir Putin critic has been incarcerated for two and a half years for “parole violations” that have scuppered his political ambitions.
The Commission of Inquiry, which investigates major crimes in Russia, said in a statement that by 2014, Navalny had “created and led an extremist network” with the aim of “changing the foundations of the constitutional system in the Russian Federation.”
Investigators accuse Navalny and his key allies, including Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, of setting up a number of social media accounts and the website of Navalny’s banned Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) “to promote criminal activity.”
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny will appear in the dock at the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow in February 2021. torpedoed his political ambitions.
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“The illegal activities of the extremist network were aimed at discrediting the state authorities and their policies,” researchers said.
The activities were also aimed at “destabilizing the situation in the regions,” she added, and “shaping public opinion on the need for a violent change of power.”
Investigators also said calls for “extremist and terrorist activity” were common in regular street protests organized by Navalny and his allies.
Zhdanov, who headed the FBK before it was dissolved, retroactively described the case over “all our past activities” as “complete madness” and “lawlessness” in a post on Instagram.
If convicted, Navalny, Volkov and Zhdanov could face six to 10 years in prison, while Lyubov Sobol and the other activists could face two to six years behind bars.
“This is the answer to the question of who Putin is afraid of and who he considers his worst enemy,” Sobol tweeted.
‘Freedom for Navalny and Russia!’
Navalny, Putin’s most outspoken domestic critic, was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from a Novichok attack he attributes to the Kremlin.
Moscow rejected the experts’ allegations and findings – which sparked a new wave of sanctions against Russia – and accused the West of a smear campaign against Russia.
Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in February and saw his nationwide network of political offices and FBK declared “extremist” and banned in June.
In recent months, the opposition leader and his allies have been the target of numerous investigations that describe them and their supporters as the Kremlin’s revenge for challenging Putin’s two-decade rule.
Most of his key allies, including Volkov and Zhdanov, have fled the country.
Participants hold placards and toilet brushes during an opposition rally to protest the results of the parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia on Sept. 25. A placard refers to imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and reads: ‘Freedom to Alexei Navalny’
Russian special police forces arrest a protester during an unauthorized protest in support of Russian opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny, in Moscow, January 23
The latest inquiry comes after Putin’s highly unpopular United Russia ruling party won an overwhelming majority in the Duma in the lower house earlier this month.
Anyone associated with Navalny’s banned groups was barred from running in the election, while his allies called for opposition supporters to back other candidates who could potentially defeat United Russia.
The Russian opposition accused authorities of massive voter fraud in the elections and in a prison message last week, Navalny said the polls had been “stolen.”
He also called on his supporters to continue the fight.
“We have one country, wherever we live,” he wrote on his Instagram account, which is managed by his team.
‘The battle for it is not a sprint but a long and hard marathon.’