Russian Opposition Leader, Alexei Navalny, is Now Being Accused of Illegal Campaign Fundraising
Russian prosecutors accused opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday of illegally receiving foreign funding for his campaign to oust an ally of President Vladimir Putin as Moscow mayor in an election next month.
Navalny, 37, said the allegations were an attempt to discredit him, and showed the Kremlin was worried that his door-to-door campaigning style was reducing acting Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s big lead in opinion polls.
“Our campaign is the most transparent in terms of financing,” Navalny, who could face criminal charges if the allegations were confirmed, said on his website, dismissing the state prosecutors as “dullards”.
The election pits the man who emerged as the opposition’s informal leader in protests last year against an experienced politician who was appointed by the Kremlin as Moscow mayor in October 2010 and has been touted as a potential prime minister.
Navalny, who has a five-year jail sentence hanging over him after being found guilty of what he said were trumped-up theft charges, has often been accused by Kremlin allies of being a Western stooge - a charge he denies.
He has been able to run for mayor on September 8 only because he was unexpectedly freed on bail the day after his sentencing last month on charges of stealing from a state timber firm while he was advising in the remote city of Kirov in 2009.
The funding allegations were made by the nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic party, which often backs Putin’s policies.
“Checks have confirmed information about foreign funding of A. Navalny’s election campaign,” the Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement, adding that more than 300 foreign individuals or legal entities had contributed to his funding.
Navalny said in response that all the donations accepted for his campaign had come from Russian citizens, although some could be living abroad or on holiday outside Russia. Foreign funding is banned under Russia’s election law.