Russian authorities launched a criminal investigation against one of the country’s leading opposition figures on Friday.
Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee issued a statement on its website
announcing a probe into anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny on suspicion of fraud and money laundering.
Navalny, a campaigner, activist and journalist, is suspected of defrauding a transportation company out of $1.8 million between 2008-2011 - if found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
While Navalny was not immediately available for comment on Friday, he has denied a previous charge, in which he was accused of stealing $500,000 from a state lumber company in the Kirov region in 2009. The activist later dismissed the charges as “complete nonsense.”
Navalny is one of the prominent figures in Russia’s opposition, who has organised several demonstrations against President Vladmir Putin this year. Legal action against opposition campaigners and non-governmental organisations has spiked since President Putin was re-elected in March.
The probe announcement comes a day before the major anti-government demonstration the opposition has planned in Moscow on Saturday. Moscow municipal authorities have so far banned the protest from going ahead.