MOSCOW, February 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators asked a court on Wednesday to put anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny under house arrest, saying he disobeyed court orders to stay in Moscow during a criminal investigation against him.
Kremlin critics say that President Vladimir Putin is stepping up crackdowns on dissent in Russia in response to rising upheaval in neighboring Ukraine, where mass protests have deposed the country’s president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Navalny, an opposition politician who played a leading role in mass street protests against Putin in the winter of 2011, and his brother Oleg are under investigation for fraud for allegedly embezzling money from cosmetics company Yves Rocher.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement that Navalny had violated orders not to leave Moscow without permission and should therefore be committed to house arrest.
Navalny is already serving a seven-day term in jail after being detained, among hundreds of other demonstrators, on Monday for protesting against the conviction of anti-Kremlin activists who were found guilty of rioting and attacking police at a rally on the eve of Putin’s inauguration in 2012.
Navalny is also serving a five-year suspended sentence for a theft conviction, which he claims was a politically motivated sham case in retribution for his opposition activities.