Russian authorities have launched another criminal investigation into opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin is suspected of forming an extremist group with his allies.
The Investigation Committee is conducting the investigation, a national investigation service that deals with serious crimes. The agency said in a statement that Navalny and allies such as Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov are suspected of directing an “extremist network”. In addition, Lyubov Sobol and other activists are suspected of participating.
The Investigative Committee says that the extremist network’s aim was, among other things, to discredit the authorities. Navalny, Volkov and Zhdanov face six to ten years in prison if convicted. Although the opposition leader himself is incarcerated, Volkov and Zhdanov have already left Russia.
Authorities previously went after organizations affiliated with Navalny. His anti-corruption foundation and the political network had been declared extremist and banned earlier this year. The investigation announced on Tuesday by the Inquiry Committee focuses on prosecuting prominent individual figures within the opposition.
Navalny is known as a louse in the Kremlin’s fur and faces much opposition from the authorities. He was poisoned in his home country in August 2020 and flown to Germany for treatment. However, the Russian authorities arrested him when he later returned to Moscow.
The Kremlin critic was accused of violating the conditions of a suspended sentence during his treatment in Germany. He had been imposed on him years earlier for embezzlement after a controversial criminal case. Navalny eventually served a prison sentence of about 2.5 years and ended up in a penal colony. He was also there during the parliamentary elections earlier this month.
Navalny and his supporters hoped to be able to exert influence in those elections by giving citizens who are critical of those in power voting tips via an app. However, that program disappeared in Russia on the orders of the Russian authorities from the app stores of Google and Apple. As a result, the Pro-Kremlin United Russia party eventually regained a large majority in parliament.