Russian prosecutors have charged top anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny with deceiving a businessman two years ago.
The charges, of "inflicting damage by means of deceit," refer to an incident in 2009 when Navalny allegedly talked the then-head of the timber firm Kirovles into signing a loss-making contract with another logging company by posing as an aide to the governor of the central Kirov region.
Kirovles lost $46,839 in the bargain, Vladimir Markin, spokesman of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor-General's Office, told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
Kirovles' former head, Vyacheslav Opalev, was charged with abuse of office in January.
Navalny said on his blog the accusations are false, and that he is being targeted for standing up to Russia's leaders and specifically to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.
United Russia has picked up the moniker of "the party of crooks and thieves" in a section of the Russian blogosphere, where Navalny is viewed as something of a hero for making a career of using the law to expose Russia's endemic corruption.
Navalny's Wikileaks-style website, Rospil.info, is using like-minded members of the Russian public to monitor state tenders, where they say billions of rubles of public money is lost to kickbacks. Rospil says a total of $58.4 million in alleged government fraud has been tracked down so far.
Although he has been campaigning against corruption in Russia for some time, Navalny was catapulted into the public consciousness last year when he published a leaked Audit Chamber report detailing a $4 billion fraud by former executives at Russia's state-owned pipeline company, Transneft, during the construction of the East Siberian Pacific Ocean pipeline.
After posting the report on his blog, and inspired by the success of Wikileaks, Navalny set up Rospil, which is funded by private contributions, including, the site says, from some regional governors. One, Oleg Chirkunov of the Perm region, has said he gave 25,000 rubles ($900) to Navalny's campaign.
Russia's leading engine service, Yandex, said last week that following an official request it had given the Federal Security Service sensitive data about people who used its online payment system to donate money to Rospil.
Navalny said he was certain the request originated from the Kremlin. He accused the FSB of then leaking the information to the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi.
Several Russian bloggers have said they have have received phone calls from a Nashi activist posing as a journalist who asked them about their support for Navalny.
Nashi denies any involvement.
Rospil has received an estimated $241.750 in donations since February.
MOSCOW, May 10 (RIA Novosti)