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Russia launches fraud, money laundering probe against opposition leader Navalny

Andrey Smirnov / AFP - Getty Images

Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny (center) is detained by the police on Oct. 27 during a protest over a wave of arrests and allegations that an opposition leader was tortured.

MOSCOW -- Russia has opened a criminal investigation against opposition leader Alexei Navalny on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, the federal investigative committee said Friday.

Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has organized protests in the past 12 months against President Vladimir Putin, already faces charges of theft that he says are politically motivated and part of a Kremlin clampdown on dissent.

Rock Center Correspondent Harry Smith journeys to Moscow, where he meets blogger Alexei Navalny, a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin and his party, United Russia. Navalny has galvanized protesters through social media and uses his website to expose alleged political corruption. The surging public outrage has left some wondering if a movement is afoot in Russia similar to that of last year's Arab Spring. 

The federal investigative committee, a government agency, said on its website that Navalny and his brother were being investigated over the alleged theft of $1.79 million by a trading company they are involved in.

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It announced the investigation one day before the opposition plans a new march against Putin in Moscow.

Navalny was not immediately available for comment. He has denied the earlier charges, over the alleged theft of timber from a state company in the Kirov region when he was advising the governor there in 2009.

Navalny is threatened with 10 years in jail if found guilty of the earlier charges.

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