Russia opens new investigation against opposition leader

MOSCOW Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:40am EST

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during the first meeting of the Russian opposition Coordination Council in Moscow October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during the first meeting of the Russian opposition Coordination Council in Moscow October 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has opened a criminal investigation against opposition leader Alexei Navalny on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, the federal investigative committee said on Friday.

Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has organized protests in the past 12 months against President Vladimir Putin, already faces charges of theft which he says are politically motivated and part of a Kremlin clampdown on dissent.

The federal investigative committee, a government agency, said on its website that Navalny and his brother were being investigated over the alleged theft of 55 million roubles ($1.79 million) by a trading company they are involved in.

It announced the investigation one day before the opposition plans a new march against Putin in Moscow.

Navalny was not immediately available for comment. He has denied the earlier charges, over the alleged theft of timber from a state company in the Kirov region when he was advising the governor there in 2009.

He is threatened with 10 years in jail if found guilty of the earlier charges.

($1 = 30.6722 Russian roubles)

(Reporting By Thomans Grove, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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