The United States is concerned over charges against Russian opposition leader, blogger and lawyer Alexei Navalny, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said.
“We are concerned by new charges brought against Russian activist Alexei Navalny,” Patrick Ventrell told a daily press briefing on Tuesday.
“This follows investigations against other May 6 demonstrators and the trial of members of a punk band who have been held in detention since March,” Ventrell said.
“All of these developments raise serious concerns about the politically motivated prosecutions of the Russian opposition and pressure on those who express dissenting views,” he said.
Navalny was charged on Tuesday with embezzlement and ordered not to leave Moscow, the Investigative Committee said.
A corruption-fighting lawyer, Navalny is suspected of pressuring the state-run Kirovles timber company in the Kirov Region into a disadvantageous deal when he was a pro bono advisor to Governor Nikita Belykh in 2009. Navalny faces up to five years in prison if convicted. He denies the charges.
Later in the day Navalny challenged the reopening of the “Kirovles case” at Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, his lawyer said. The court has yet to set the date for an appeal hearing.
The case was dropped by regional investigators in April, but reopened in July on orders from Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin, whom Navalny accused of professional misconduct, fraud and corruption.
Navalny is one of several activists being investigated in relation to clashes between protesters and police on eve of President Putin's May 7 return to the Kremlin for a third term. He spent 15 days in jail in May on protest-related charges.