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Russia ramps up pressure on critic Navalny with new investigation

Russia ramps up pressure on critic Navalny with new investigation
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Russia opened a new investigation Tuesday into Alexei Navalny, ramping up pressure on one of Moscow’s most outspoken critics. 

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement that it was launching the new fraud probe over allegations he misused $5 million in donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation and other firms.

Navalny’s foundation has been the subject of an array of investigations by the Russian government, though he and his allies have said the inquiries are attempts to undermine the opposition movement.

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"It was found that for the needs of a number of non-profit organizations, including the Anti-Corruption Foundation ... more than 588 million rubles [$7.9 million] have been collected from individuals as donations," the Investigative Committee said. "These funds were intended solely for the purposes of these foundations."

The body specifically accused Navalny of spending over $4.8 million for personal expenses, money the Investigative Committee said was “stolen.”

The announcement of the criminal probe marks an escalation of Moscow’s efforts to squeeze Navalny. Authorities threatened to imprison Navalny for not complying with his suspended sentence on an old case if he did not appear at a Tuesday hearing in Moscow. Navalny is currently in Germany receiving treatment from his August poisoning and was given a 10-hour notice to appear in court.

Moscow is believed to be behind the August attack on the opposition leader, which followed similar poisonings of other Kremlin critics.

Navalny said in an Instagram post that the new cases against him were part of Moscow’s broader efforts to silence him over his criticism of President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHow to think about Russia Do Biden's 'tough new sanctions' give Putin Nord Stream 2? Russia vows retaliation for new US sanctions: 'We do not intend to put up with this' MORE following the poisoning. 

"This was not that hard to predict. I said from the beginning ... they will try to jail me because I didn't die on the plane and then tracked down my assassins. Because I proved that Putin is behind it and that he is a thief who is ready to kill those who refused to be silent about his thievery," Navalny said Tuesday.