1 Aug 2012

Opposition activist charged with theft

1:16 pm on 1 August 2012

One of Russia's most prominent opposition activists has been charged with theft from a state company.

If convicted, Alexei Navalny could be sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison.

Federal investigators in Moscow have brought charges over a timber deal in the Kirov region in which he was involved as an unofficial adviser three years ago.

The BBC reports the case was previously investigated and dropped by regional prosecutors.

Mr Navalny is also ordered not to leave the country. Supporters demonstrated outside the offices of the Investigative Committee in Moscow, where he was charged on Tuesday.

The original case related to a loss-making contract concluded by a state-owned timber company in Kirov, a region just west of the Ural Mountains, with another company.

The Kirov regional budget for 2009-10 reportedly suffered a loss of 1.3 million roubles ($US40,000) and Mr Navalny was investigated as he was acting at the time as an adviser to Governor, Nikita Belykh.

The new charges were posted on the website of the SK, a federal body set up to act as the equivalent of the FBI in Russia.

Mr Navalny is now accused of colluding with the heads of the two companies involved to organise the theft of timber worth 16 million roubles ($US500,000).

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

Mr Navalny vowed on Tuesday to continue his political activities despite the case against him.

"I will continue doing what I did before - nothing has changed for me," he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.