MOSCOW: A Moscow court Friday ordered Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny to be placed under house arrest and banned from using the Internet, a move he said was aimed at thwarting his fight against top-level corruption.
The order came after a request from investigators probing an alleged embezzlement case that Navalny’s supporters say is yet another attempt to remove one of the most dangerous foes of President Vladimir Putin from the political scene.
Navalny – who was last year given a suspended five-year sentence in a separate embezzlement case – faces charges in this case along with his brother Oleg of stealing and laundering a total of 51 million rubles ($1.4 million) from cosmetics company Yves Rocher and a Russian firm.
As well as being unable to leave his home in the Moscow region, the tough new restrictions imposed by a district court mean that Navalny will only be able to talk to relatives, investigators and his defense.
Crucially for a figure who has emerged as one of the main challengers Putin through a widely-followed blog and acerbic tweets, he will not be able to use the Internet.
In the last comments Navalny was allowed to make to the media by the court, he said the move was aimed at keeping him out of politics and stymying the work of his anti-corruption watchdog.
“I am using this last chance to say that what has happened has just one aim – to restrict the possibility of me continuing anti-corruption investigations,” he said.
“All they [the investigators] are interested in is that I have a blog and make public political pronouncements,” he added.
By strange coincidence, Russia’s justice ministry Friday registered the Progress Party, the nascent political party that Navalny leads.
“Registration of the Progress Party and house arrest,” Navalny ironically tweeted in what is likely to be his last tweet for some time.