March 3, 2020 / 12:42 PM / a month ago

Putin critic Navalny accuses Russia of emptying and freezing his bank accounts

MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Tuesday accused Russian authorities of emptying and blocking his bank accounts and those of his close family, a move he said was unfair and aimed at strangling him and his supporters financially.

Navalny, 43, who tries to garner popular support by exposing what he says is appalling official corruption, said his own bank accounts had been frozen as had the bank cards of his wife, son, daughter and elderly parents.

Navalny said the account freezes happened on Monday and that accounts belonging to him and his wife had not only been blocked, but were now overdrawn to the tune of 75 million roubles ($1.13 million). His son’s savings, the result of weekly pocket money handouts, had also disappeared.

It was not immediately clear why the accounts had been blocked, and the Kremlin declined to discuss the matter, saying that bank account freezes were not a matter for it to comment on.

Separately, the TASS news agency reported on Tuesday that Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, whom Navalny has targeted in his investigations, was suing Navalny for smearing his reputation, though only for a symbolic sum of one rouble.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which specialises in publishing exposes on the alleged corruption of state officials, is the subject of a separate criminal investigation into alleged money laundering.

Investigators opened the money laundering case in August last year after Navalny called for people to demonstrate in central Moscow over the exclusion of opposition candidates from a local election.

Those protests grew into Moscow’s biggest sustained protest movement in years before fizzling out.

The Justice Ministry in October formally labelled Navalny’s anti-corruption group a “foreign agent”, meaning it can be subjected to spot checks and face bureaucratic scrutiny.

$1 = 66.2787 roubles Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn

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