Russia Opens Third Probe of Putin Opponent Navalny

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Russia opened a third criminal case, the biggest so far, against Alexey Navalny, an anti-corruption activist who helped lead protests against President Vladimir Putin.

Investigators allege Navalny embezzled 100 million rubles ($3.25 million) from the Union of Right Forces, a pro-business political party, according to a statement posted on the committee’s website today.

“This is a signal to me and to anyone else who expresses public dissatisfaction with the government,” Navalny said by phone today, calling the accusations against him “absurd.”

In July, Navalny, 36, was charged with embezzling 16 million rubles from a state timber company in the Kirov region. Fresh charges were announced last week against the activist and his brother relating to a separate fraud of 55 million rubles involving mail deliveries.

Investigators are checking whether there are grounds for charging Navalny over the political party fraud, the investigative committee said. A company headed by the anti-corruption activist received 100 million rubles for advertising services, it said.

Navalny, a lawyer who campaigns to expose fraud and waste at state companies, faces as much as 10 years in prison in the three cases, according to the criminal code.

“Putin seems to get pleasure from the fact that he can decide the fate of a person,” said Navalny. “If he decides that these cases will go to court, they will go to court.”

Putin, 60, who extended his 12-year rule in March elections, faced unprecedented protests a year ago after tens of thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the Russian leader and alleged parliamentary election fraud.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at