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Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny says facing three new criminal probes

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing at the Babushkinsky district court in Moscow on February 20, 2021. – The Kremlin’s most prominent opponent Alexei Navalny faces two court decisions on Saturday that could seal a judge’s ruling to jail him for several years, after he returned to Russia following a poisoning attack. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Tuesday that he had been told by investigators that three new criminal probes have been launched against him.

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“My influential criminal syndicate is growing,” President Vladimir Putin’s top domestic opponent quipped in a new post on Instagram.

“I am a genius and puppet master of the criminal underworld,” said the 44-year-old, adding that more than 20 investigators were involved in the new probes.

Citing a senior representative of Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, Navalny said he was accused of “stealing” donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation and insulting a judge.

He is also accused of creating a non-commercial organisation and encouraging Russians not to perform “their civic duties” by publishing an investigation into Putin’s alleged wealth, Navalny said.

Navalny in January released a probe into a Black Sea palace Russian tycoons allegedly built for Putin which has racked up more than 116 million views on YouTube. Putin denies the palace is his.

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Navalny was arrested in January upon returning from Germany after recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack he says was orchestrated by the Kremlin. The Kremlin denies the allegation.

He is serving two-and-a-half years in a penal colony outside Moscow on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated. He is a target of several other probes.

Navalny announced the new charges against him as pressure builds on the opposition ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Next month a court will hear whether to add Navalny’s network of regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation to a list of “terrorist and extremist” organisations.

In another move targeting his supporters, Russia’s lower house of parliament this month approved legislation in a first reading that would ban members of “extremist” organisations from becoming lawmakers.

The second reading of the bill was set to take place on Tuesday.

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