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21 Dec, 2023 18:28

UK-based boss of Navalny group put on Russia’s wanted list

Maria Pevchikh, a British national, took over Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation earlier this year
UK-based boss of Navalny group put on Russia’s wanted list

The Russian Interior Ministry issued a wanted declaration on Thursday for Maria Pevchikh, a key associate of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The woman, who holds British citizenship, assumed leadership of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) in March 2023.

The ministry’s announcement provided scant details regarding the reasons behind this move, stating only that Pevchikh is wanted for a violation of the Russian Criminal Code. In May, she was added to Russia’s ‘foreign agents’ list, a status reserved for individuals receiving foreign funding or deemed to be ‘under foreign influence’ while seeking to influence Russia’s policies or public opinion.

Having studied in the UK and worked for British American Tobacco, Pevchikh has apparently not resided in Russia since 2006. She began collaborating with Navalny in the early 2010s and assumed the role of head of the “investigative department” within the FBK. In 2019, she acquired UK citizenship.

Pevchikh is also suspected of playing a role in Navalny’s alleged poisoning in 2020. Following the opposition figure’s illness on a flight from Siberia to Moscow, it was reported that Pevchikh may have transported evidence related to the case to Germany, including a water bottle containing traces of a toxic substance. Russian authorities claimed she had fled the country after refusing to cooperate.

German authorities subsequently declared that Navalny had been poisoned with a substance from the Novichok group of nerve agents. Navalny’s associates attributed the incident to Moscow. Russian medics, however, denied finding any poison in Navalny’s body.

The FBK, labeled a "foreign agent" in 2019 and later designated an extremist group, saw its activities banned in Russia. In response, Navalny announced the creation of the ‘Anti-Corruption Foundation International’ in 2022.

Navalny himself has been imprisoned since 2021 on fraud charges, receiving an additional nine-year sentence in early 2022 for contempt of court and fraud. The charges were related to the activities of the FBK, with the opposition figure accused of spending the donations raised by the non-profit for “personal needs” as well as to bankroll “extremist activities.”

In August 2023, he was sentenced to an additional 19 years on multiple extremism-related charges. The activist was convicted of creating an extremist group, calling for extremist actions, financing such activities, and luring minors into them, as well as rehabilitating Nazi ideology.

Two former FBK leaders, Ivan Zhdanov and Leonid Volkov, who headed the FBK before Pevchikh, were also added to Russia's list of terrorists and extremists. Both men are currently residing abroad.

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