Navalny: Russian opposition figure charged with fraud

Alexei Navalny at a protest rally in Moscow, 15 December Alexei Navalny is one of the best-known opposition leaders in Russia

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Investigators in Russia have formally charged leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg with fraud and money-laundering.

The charges were published on Thursday on the website of the powerful Investigative Committee.

The brothers are accused of embezzling 55m roubles (£1.1m; $1.8m) in 2008-11 while working in a postal business.

Reacting to news of the inquiry last week, Mr Navalny described the charges as "complete nonsense".

Alexei Navalny, a lawyer known for his campaigning against corruption, spearheaded protests against the Kremlin a year ago after disputed parliamentary elections.

In October, he came first in a leadership ballot organised by Russia's opposition parties.

The charges of fraud and money-laundering carry fines or prison sentences of two and three years respectively.

'Inflated prices'

Investigators say mail shipping services were provided at "deliberately inflated prices", with the brothers pocketing 55m roubles, of which 19m were allegedly laundered.

Reacting to news of the charges on Thursday, Mr Navalny wrote on Twitter that his father had also been named in the charges.

"It's a good thing that Dasha and Zakhar are underage," he added sarcastically, referring to his children.

It is not the first case brought against Mr Navalny. In July, he was charged with embezzlement over a timber deal - a charge he also denies.

Mr Navalny wrote on Monday that he had signed an undertaking not to leave Moscow during the latest investigation.

Since Vladimir Putin was re-elected president in March, legal action against opposition figures has increased markedly.

A tough new law has passed on public order offences and tight curbs have been placed on non-governmental organisations.

Last winter saw the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union.

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