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Kremlin critic Navalny says fines force him to close anti-corruption foundation

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally to mark the 5th anniversary of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov's murder and to protest against proposed amendments to the country's constitution, in Moscow, Russia February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said on Monday he would shut down his Anti-Corruption Foundation due to hefty court fines imposed over one of its investigations, but would try to re-launch it under a new name.

The foundation has specialised in publishing high-impact investigations into what is says is official graft. Those targeted have sometimes disputed its findings and taken successful legal action against it.

Navalny said the latest court fines, which amounted to 88 million roubles ($1.23 million), were the last straw for the foundation.

“What to do...?” Navalny said. “Everything we had was already seized in previous police raids. Now they’re going to take away the organisation itself.”

He said the group had no option but to shut down and re-launch under a new name, registered as a new business and called on his supporters, who he said donate around 6 million roubles a month to the organisation, to re-subscribe.

Authorities have subjected the foundation’s offices to frequent searches, frozen its bank accounts, and its employees and volunteers have been routinely detained for participating in protest rallies.

Authorities have also accused it of money laundering, an allegation Navalny has said is trumped up.

Navalny was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018 and jailed last summer after calling for mass opposition protests in Moscow which brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets.

Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrew Osborn