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Russia opens case against Lithuania-based Volkov for calling teenagers to participate in last weekend’s pro-Navalny rallies

Russia opens case against Lithuania-based Volkov for calling teenagers to participate in last weekend’s pro-Navalny rallies
A key aide of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny has been accused by the country’s authorities of encouraging minors to attend unsanctioned protests. Leonid Volkov, who is based abroad, runs Navalny’s regional HQ network.

If found guilty, the punishment handed down could be up to three years behind bars.

According to the authorities, in a January 21 video, Volkov called on teenagers to participate in last week’s unsanctioned demonstrations in support of the imprisoned Navalny. The protest was not approved by Moscow City Hall, which said that this was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“Volkov reliably knew about the lack of approvals from the authorized bodies to hold rallies in connection with the difficult epidemiological situation,” an Investigative Committee statement said. “Despite this, … he posted publications on YouTube calling on minors to participate in unauthorized rallies in Moscow and other cities of Russia.“

In response, Volkov rubbished the accusations.

“As usual, black is white, freedom is slavery, two times two is five,” he wrote on Twitter.

Volkov is a long-time ally of Navalny and previously served as the chief of staff for his 2018 presidential campaign, when the authorities refused to register Navalny as a candidate due to a previous conviction. Born in Ekaterinburg, Russia, he is now based in Vilnius.

On January 23, thousands of Navalny supporters took to the streets of over 100 Russian cities to demand that the jailed opposition figure be released from prison. Navalny was remanded in custody on January 18, after arriving back in Russia from Germany. The activist is accused of violating the terms of a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence he'd received in 2014, when he was found guilty of embezzling 30 million rubles ($400,000) from two companies, including the French cosmetics brand Yves Rocher. Four days after the demonstrations, on January 27, searches were conducted at the homes of several Navalny allies.

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