Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny charged again

Alexei Navalny Alexei Navalny, seen here at a street protest in Moscow on Sunday, says accusations against him are politically motivated

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Russian investigators have brought new charges against the opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg are charged with money laundering.

Earlier this month Navalny's five-year jail term for embezzlement was reduced to a suspended sentence on appeal.

Alexei Navalny became the leader of a street protest movement and came second in the Moscow mayoral election. He dismisses the criminal investigations against him as politically motivated.

Russian investigators accuse Alexei and Oleg Navalny of defrauding a Russian subsidiary of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher out of about 26m roubles (about $811,000; £505,000). They said the Navalny brothers also defrauded a Russian company, MPK, out of 4m roubles (about $125,000, £77,700).

In a further charge, the Navalny brothers are charged with laundering 21m roubles (about $656,000, £408,000) in funds.

The charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Public office ban

Alexei Navalny described the latest charges as "nonsense".

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, he said it was a message from the Russian authorities that if people stepped out of line, "then we will terrorise you".

"It is absolute nonsense when the commercial activities that my brother conducted over three years without any complaints against him are suddenly declared to be fraud," he said.

Navalny first came to prominence as a blogger exposing corruption which he identified with Vladimir Putin - who returned as president of Russia last year - and his allies. He helped organise a wave of street protests after the December 2011 parliamentary election was marred by reports of abuses.

The latest indictment comes days after a Russian court suspended a five-year sentence given to Alexei Navalny in July.

In that case, he was found guilty of heading a group that embezzled timber worth 16m roubles from the Kirovles state timber company, while working as an adviser to the governor of the Kirov region, Nikita Belykh.

While the appeal verdict left him a free man, the conviction itself was upheld, meaning he is barred from running for public office.

Alexei Navalny has always insisted the accusations against him are politically motivated.

In September, Navalny took 27% of the mayoral vote in Moscow against the Kremlin-backed incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, who officially scraped through on the first round with 51% - a result the opposition leader disputes.

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