Russian protest leader Navalny faces new probe

By Vladimir Isachenkov, AP

MOSCOW — Alexei Navalny, a driving force behind massive protests against Vladimir Putin’s rule, on Tuesday faced charges of theft of state property that come amid a widening Kremlin crackdown on dissent.

Navalny rejected the charges, which carry a 10-year prison term if he’s convicted, and follow the recent jailing of opposition activists and the passage of new repressive legislation.

The State Investigative Committee said Tuesday that it suspects Navalny of organizing a scheme to steal assets from a state timber company totaling 16 million rubles (about half a million dollars). He was ordered not to leave the city. Navalny called the charges “weird” and baseless.

“The charges are absolutely absurd,” he told reporters.