Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny says he's facing three new criminal probes

Mr Alexei Navalny was arrested in January upon returning from Germany after recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday (May 25) that he had been told by investigators that three new criminal probes have been launched against him.

"My influential criminal syndicate is growing," Russian 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 added that he is also accused of creating a non-commercial organisation and encouraging Russians not to perform "their civic duties" by publishing an investigation into Mr Putin's alleged wealth.

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

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.

In June, 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 in May 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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