Russian investigators target Navalny in new ‘extremism’ probe

Russian investigators on Tuesday said they had launched a new “extremism” probe against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his top allies.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, said in a statement that no later than 2014 Navalny “produced an extremist network and directed it” with the aim of “changing the foundations of the constitutional system in the Russian Federation”.

Investigators said that Navalny and his top allies Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov are suspected of having run an “extremist network”, while Lyubov Sobol and a number of his other allies are accused of taking part.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal domestic critic, was detained in January and later saw his nationwide network of political offices and Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) declared “extremist” and banned.

In recent months, Navalny and his allies have become targets of numerous probes that they and their supporters describe as the Kremlin’s revenge for challenging Putin’s two-decade-long rule.

In their statement, investigators accused Navalny and his allies of setting up a number of social media accounts and the FBK’s website “in order to promote criminal activity.”

“The illegal activities of the extremist network were aimed at discrediting state authorities and their policies,” the Investigative Committee said.

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If convicted, Navalny, Volkov and Zhdanov could confront six to 10 years in prison, while Sobol and the other activists risk two to six years behind bars.

Most of his top allies including Volkov and Zhdanov have fled Russia.

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