Russia hits Alexei Navalny with fraud charges
30 Dec 2020

The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny will face arrest if he returns to Russia after investigators charged him yesterday with large-scale fraud.

Mr Navalny, 44, was accused of embezzling 588 million roubles (£5.8 million) in public donations to his FBK anti-corruption group. Investigators said he had spent the money on foreign property, holidays and other unspecified items. He could be jailed for ten years if found guilty.

Mr Navalny is recovering in Germany after what he says was a Kremlin-sponsored attempt to kill him with novichok nerve agent in August.

“I said straight away: they will try to imprison me for not dying and then seeking out my killers,” Mr Navalny said yesterday. “This is because I proved that Putin was behind [the attempt on his life]. He is a thief who is ready to kill those who refuse to stay silent about his thievery.”

The Kremlin says that accusations that it tried to kill Mr Navalny are “unacceptable”. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, has alleged that Mr Navalny is a CIA agent but has not provided evidence to back up his claim.

The fraud charges came shortly after Mr Navalny was warned that he could face jail for failing to comply with a last-minute ultimatum to report to a probation office in Moscow.

Russian prison service officials said on Monday afternoon that Mr Navalny would be in violation of the terms of a suspended sentence from 2014 if he did not attend a probation office by 9am yesterday. They said that a failure to appear could result in the conversion of his three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence into an actual prison term.

By Marc Bennetts, The Times, 30 December 2020

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