© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Leonid Volkov, an ally of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, speaks during a news conference in Berlin, Germany August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia has opened a criminal investigation into two exiled allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for raising funds for organisations that Moscow has declared “extremist”, the country’s Investigative Committee said on Tuesday.
The case was opened against Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov and other individuals, the law enforcement agency said in a statement. A Russian court this summer branded Navalny’s political movement extremist amid a crackdown on the opposition.
The June ruling that formally come into force last week made it illegal to donate to their groups.
While Navalny sits in jail, Volkov and Zhdanov, who are based abroad, are trying to keep his anti-Kremlin cause alive by outlining their strategy to supporters on YouTube and social media.
Navalny is serving a 2-1/2-year sentence for parole violations he calls trumped up.
Volkov and Zhdanov are also accused of other crimes that they say are part of a campaign to crush their activism ahead of parliamentary elections in September.
For years, Navalny and his allies have crowdfunded donations from supporters via their group’s website and other platforms. They have raised funds using bitcoin, which cannot be traced by Russian authorities.
Allies of Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest domestic opponent, have encouraged backers to donate via cryptocurrencies to protect their supporters from prosecution.
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