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Russia Opens Criminal Case Into 2 Navalny Allies 


FILE - Russian opposition politicians Alexei Navalny, Lyubov Sobol and Ivan Zhdanov take part in a rally to mark the 5th anniversary of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov's murder, in Moscow, Feb. 29, 2020.

Russia has opened a criminal investigation into two exiled allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny for raising funds for organizations deemed by the authorities as "extremist."

The Investigative Committee said in a statement on August 10 that the case was opened against Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov and other unnamed individuals.

FILE - Leonid Volkov, chief strategist for Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, speaks during a press conference at the Lithuanian Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2021.
FILE - Leonid Volkov, chief strategist for Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, speaks during a press conference at the Lithuanian Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2021.

According to the law enforcement agency, the charge stems from a video posted on the Internet in August in which Volkov and Zhdanov "announced the continuation of their illegal activities and organized fundraising."

The charges carry a maximum penalty of eight years in prison.

In early June, a Moscow court labeled Navalny’s political network “extremist,” a move his team has called a sign of a “truly new level” of lawlessness in the country. The ruling formally came into force a few days ago, making it illegal to donate to their groups.

Zhdanov is the former director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and Volkov headed Navalny's regional network before its dissolution. Both are currently living abroad, accused of other crimes they say are part of a campaign to crush their activism.

"I've already lost count of the number of criminal cases that have been launched against me," Zhdanov wrote on Instagram on August 10.

The moves against Navalny’s organizations and his allies came amid an opposition crackdown as the ruling United Russia party has been polling at historic lows ahead of parliament elections in September.

FILE - A still image from CCTV footage published by Life.Ru shows what is said to be jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny speaking with a prison guard at the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov, Russia, in this image released Apr. 2, 2021.
FILE - A still image from CCTV footage published by Life.Ru shows what is said to be jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny speaking with a prison guard at the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov, Russia, in this image released Apr. 2, 2021.

In February, a Moscow court ruled that Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered as being politically motivated.

Navalny's 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted to a prison term, though the court said he will serve 2 1/2 years in prison given time he had been held in detention.

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