Russia piles pressure on opposition leader with new accusation

MOSCOW Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:27am 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) - Russian investigators said on Wednesday a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin had gained his qualifications as a lawyer illegally, piling more pressure on the opposition leader who already faces three criminal investigations.

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger, was a leader of a street protest movement against Putin's 13-year rule that started after mass allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election in December 2011.

But the protests have withered and made no significant inroads into the president's grip on power.

Russia's federal Investigative Committee, which answers only to Putin, has launched criminal charges against several leaders of the street protests. Putin's critics accuse the president of cracking down on dissent since his return to the Kremlin last May.

The committee said on Wednesday that Navalny had in the past provided fraudulent paperwork to confirm the work experience he had needed to become qualified as a lawyer.

"An investigation revealed the fact that Alexei Navalny illegally obtained his lawyer's status," said spokesman Vladimir Markin.

Navalny, who worked as a commercial lawyer before taking up political activism, said there were no grounds to strip him of his legal credentials.

The 36-year-old has already been charged with stealing timber worth more than $500,000 from a state company in 2009; embezzling up to $3.24 million from a political party in 2007; and, along with his brother, cheating a mail-transport company out of $1.79 million.

He has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the charges against him as politically motivated.

Navalny and other opposition figures say Putin has used the justice system to persecute his adversaries and the parliament to adopt laws aimed at stifling the opposition movement.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Comments (2)
tbro wrote:
He’s up against a revived, cold war oriented and dictatorial regime. I respect his courage, but hell will be joining Pussy Riot soon.

Feb 27, 2013 6:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
nirvichara wrote:
Well, the thief Navalny belongs to a jail , isn’t he ?

Oh sorry, forgot. We are blaming former KGB spies here , not thieves and liars…

Feb 27, 2013 1:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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