MOSCOW, August 1 (Itar-Tass) — On Tuesday, the Russian Investigation Committee brought accusations against a well-known oppositionist and leader of the civil protesting movement Alexei Navalny for masterminding the embezzlement of the property in the Kirovles enterprise, changing the criminal case for a harsher article. Now Navalny is on recognizance not to leave the city. He did not plead guilty. Meanwhile, the lawyers affirmed that the sum of damages is pulled out of a hat and the accusations are beyond the common sense.
The Novye Izvestia daily recalled that earlier the criminal case against Navalny had been investigated under the article of the Criminal Code for inflicting proprietary damage through fraud and abuse of trust. On Tuesday, the Investigation Committee changed its position and charged the blogger under the article for masterminding a gross property misappropriation. So, the criminal case was changed for a harsher criminal article. If the previous charge envisaged up to five years in prison, under a new criminal article Navalny can face a term of up to ten years in prison with a possible additional fine of up to one million roubles. The sum of damages, which Navalny reportedly inflicted on Kirovles, was also changed. Now the damages are estimated at 16 million roubles rather than 1.3 million roubles.
In his blog Navalny has always focused on the Kirov criminal case and his relations with the Russian Investigation Committee, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily noted. According to his explanations, Kirovles was on the verge of bankruptcy and existed only on the paper, when the team of Governor Nikita Belykh that came in the region began to deal with the company. Actually there were 36 forestries, which were legally united in one company, but operated on their own and mainly for the benefit of their directors. The timber was sold for cash, and the expenses were shouldered on Kirovles, which was on the edge of bankruptcy all the same. To put an end to this situation Navalny, the then pro-bono advisor of Belykh, suggested selling the timber only in the centralized way and at the fixed prices in the future. The Vyatka forestry company, which Navalny attracted, was to sell the timber.
Leaving the Investigation Committee Navalny told reporters, “Khodorkovsky has stolen all oil in the country and I have stolen all timber,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. He believes that the central television channels will present the information in this vein. The lawyers were not permitted to study the case files, therefore, the newspaper is not aware how the amount of the stolen timber was increased.
The lawyers don’t know the reasons for changing the criminal article, the RBC daily reported. “I believe that the detectives, who had the documents to terminate the criminal case, realize perfectly well that there is no corpus delicti in it, therefore they decided to do something new,” lawyer Olga Mikhailova noted. “The detectives changed the criminal article for political motives, deciding that Article 165 is hardly perceived by people, but the accusations in misappropriation are comprehensible perfectly for people,” lawyer Vadim Prokhorov noted.
Most oppositionists took the actions of the Investigation Committee as politically motivated, because Alexei Navalny is one of the main masterminds of massive protest actions, the Kommersant daily reported. “This is a political order. It is aimed at restricting the political activities, convict or intimidate the leaders of the protesting movement,” leader of the Left Front movement Sergei Udaltsov believes. “The consequences for such persecution will be scandalous for the authorities,” head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva added.
On the contrary, the United Russia Party supported the actions of the Investigation Committee. “Mr. Navalny, who had delivered protesting speeches for the country for several years, saying that someone is a fraudster and a thief, was accused of criminal offences,” deputy secretary of the United Russia General Council Andrei Isayev told the Kommersant daily.
“If the misappropriation accusations are proved, this will deal a blow on Navalny as a fighter against ‘fraudsters and thieves’ and on Governor Belykh, far from the first advisor of which is standing trial,” the Vedomosti daily quoted United Russia senator Ruslan Gattarov as saying. “The protests will hardly be massive in case of arrest or a guilty verdict against Navalny, as his oriole of a devoted fighter has already faded away, and far for each person will be ready to come out in defence of the accused of misappropriation,” the senator believes.