Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny will face new charges in Russia.
The move comes as the government attempts to apply pressure on the corruption fighter and his team.
The 45-year-old is President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic.
“He was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — an accusation rejected by Russian officials,” the Associated Press reports.
One month later, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for allegedly violating a 2014 suspended sentence related to an embezzlement charge. Navalny maintains that the charge was politically motivated.
Mass protests and demonstrations followed his arrest. Authorities arrested those involved as well as known associates of Navalny. Then, a court labeled Navalny’s nonprofit, Foundation for Fighting Corruption, and a network of Navalny’s regional offices as extremist organizations and barred them from operating. Additionally, over 50 websites run by his team or supporters have been blocked by the government for supposedly disseminating extremist group propaganda.
In a statement Wednesday, Russia’s Investigative Committee accused Navalny and his allies of creating “a non-profit organization that infringes on the persons and rights of citizens.”
“The charges carry a maximum sentence of three years in jail,” reports Bloomberg. “The new charges, under an article usually used against cults, cite Navalny’s use of his Anti-Corruption Foundation to appeal to Russians to participate in unauthorized protests early this year.”
Notably, if sentenced to the maximum jail time, Navalny would be in federal custody when Putin’s current six-year term in the Kremlin is due to end. Russia’s next presidential election will be in 2024.
According to Reuters, “the charge comes a day after the Investigative Committee on Tuesday announced a new criminal investigation into two close Navalny allies, who are based abroad, for raising funds for his political network.”
Russia’s parliamentary elections are set to take place this fall.