New criminal investigations are underway against two relatives of imprisoned Russian opponent Alexei Navalny. The Russian Investigative Committee (Sledestveni Comet) accuses them of financing “extremist” organizations.
They are Leonid Volkov (40 years old) and Ivan Zhdanov (32 years old), who are Navalny’s closest employees. The suspicion is “deliberately collecting funds to finance an extremist organisation”. Its maximum sentence is eight years.
under unprecedented pressure
The opposition movement is under unprecedented pressure in Russia. The Russian court in June described their organizations, including the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) and its regional offices, as “extremists” and officially banned them in early August.
Volkov headed the organization’s regional network, and Ivan Zhdanov headed the FBK. “Recognizing that these organizations are considered extremist, Volkov and Zhdanov announced that they would continue their activities and fund-raising,” said the Criminal Investigation Commission.
Volkov Widanov left Russia several months ago, just as other opposition supporters had previously decided to go into exile. They were already wanted and on trial at the time for “inciting minors to engage in illegal activities” according to investigators by calling for demonstrations in January in support of Navalny. “I could not count the criminal investigations opened against me,” Zhdanov wrote on Instagram at the time.
News of a new investigation came after months of a crackdown on dissent in Russia, marked by Navalny’s imprisonment in a penal colony, and measures taken against the independent press and other critical voices.
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