MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian freelance journalist has been charged with funding an extremist organization for donating a small amount of money to a foundation set up by imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, reported Monday Russian media.
It is the first publicly known criminal prosecution for donating to Navalny’s organizations since they were declared extremist and banned last summer – a seemingly new tactic Russian authorities have chosen to deepen their crackdown on dissent.
Radio Liberty quoted Andrei Zayakin’s colleagues as saying he was arrested at his Moscow apartment on Sunday and arraigned in court on Monday. If found guilty, he faces up to eight years in prison.
According to the Mass Media Defense Center, a rights group that helps defend Zayakin, investigators accuse the journalist of donating 1,000 rubles (about $16) to the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation.
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Zayakin, who writes for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and other publications, spent the night in a police cell. On Monday, a court approved a request by investigators to impose an 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew on him, ban him from using the internet and phone and from communicating with others involved in the case, although it was not immediately clear if there was any.
Russian authorities have increasingly targeted critics and opponents in recent years, particularly after the country launched what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24. Navalny is in jail on various charges which he says are politically motivated and continues to speak out via social media. Last year, a Russian court labeled its Anti-Corruption Foundation, along with its network of regional offices, as extremists and banned its work in Russia.
Zayakin, who holds a degree in mathematics and physics, co-founded a widely known project called Dissernet, which seeks to expose corruption and plagiarism in Russian science by studying doctoral dissertations, especially those written by government officials.
Also on Monday, Russian authorities arrested another prominent Kremlin critic, Leonid Gozman, on charges of publicly comparing the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany. Gozman faces a 15-day administrative fine or arrest.
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