MOSCOW, February 27 (RIA Novosti) Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny was accused by investigators on Wednesday of faking documents allowing him to work as an attorney.
“Investigators have doubts about the legality of A.Navalny’s receipt of attorney status in 2009,” said Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin. He said a signature had been faked on a document that Navalny presented to gain attorney status.
Markin also said in a Twitter post that Navalny had been summoned to the Moscow headquarters of the Investigation Committee, which answers only to the president, in connection with the allegations.
Navalny has consistently denied any impropriety in relation to his professional qualifications, which have also been questioned by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi.
Russia's Chambers of Lawyers said on Wednesday it would look into the allegations and that Navalny would be stripped of his attorney status if they were confirmed. The Kirov Chamber of Lawyers said Navalny had become an attorney in accordance with the law.
Markin said the “doubts” had emerged as part of a criminal investigation into charges that Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger and leader of street protests against President Vladimir Putin, organized a scheme which resulted in losses of some $500,000 to central Russia’s Kirov region budget while acting as advisor to the governor there. He faces ten years behind bars if found guilty.
Navalny called the accusations “strange” and "absurd” when they were brought last summer, because the case had previously been looked into twice by investigators without charges being filed. The case was reopened on the orders of Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin shortly after Navalny accused him of owning undeclared property and other investments in the Czech Republic.
Investigators have since opened three other criminal cases against Navalny, on charges of embezzling from a political party, deceiving an international cosmetics company, and conspiring to illegally privatize a central Russia distillery.
“The Investigation Committee has turned into something between [Joseph] Goebbels' hellish machine and the NTV channel,” Navalny wrote in his Live Journal Blog, referring to the head of the Nazi’s propaganda ministry and a pro-Kremlin television channel known for its “exposes” of opposition figures.
Navalny, who currently has no criminal record, will be ineligible to stand for public office if he is convicted on any of the charges against him.
After answering Wednesday's summons, Navalny tweeted that he had not been questioned and suggested that Markin had needed "some scandalous news to promote his own Twitter account." Markin launched a Twitter microblog earlier this week.
Another high-profile opposition leader, Sergei Udaltsov, was placed under house arrest earlier this month in connection with charges that he plotted to overthrow Putin. The charges were brought after grainy footage was aired by the NTV channel that purported to show Udaltsov and two other leftist activists discussing the alleged plot with Georgian politician Givi Targamadze. Udaltsov and the other two activists, Leonid Razvozzhayev and Konstantin Lebedev, face up to ten years behind bars if found guilty of the charges, which they deny.
Putin denied last year that he was clamping down on dissent against his 13-year rule as president and prime minister, saying “everyone” must obey Russian law.
Adds Navalny visit to Investigative Committee, Kirov chamber of lawyers statement