Aide says Russian opposition leader’s assets frozen after poisoning

Updated 25 Sep 2020

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In this July 20, 2019, file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a protest in Moscow, Russia. — AP/File
In this July 20, 2019, file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a protest in Moscow, Russia. — AP/File

MOSCOW: Russian bailiffs put a freeze on opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s flat and bank accounts days after his poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent, his spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The bailiffs’ actions were the result of a court ruling in October that Navalny, his ally Lyubov Sobol and the Anti-Corruption Foundation he founded should jointly pay almost 88 million rubles ($1.2 million) to Moskovsky Shkolnik, a catering company that makes school dinners.

The company sued over a video investigation by Navalny’s team that alleged it made substandard food that made children ill.

The politician and anti-corruption campaigner’s spokeswoman said in a video statement that on Aug 27, “bailiffs announced a ban” on transactions involving his share in a flat in a Moscow suburb.

“At the same time, Alexei’s accounts were frozen,” Kira Yarmysh said.

The legal move against Navalny means his family’s flat in a multi-storey block in southeastern Moscow cannot be sold, given as a present or used to take out a mortgage, Yarmysh said. He can still live in the flat, however.

Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said the move could be part of a campaign by Russia to dissuade Navalny from returning.

“Watch how they’ll throw everything at stopping Navalny’s return,” she said on social media.

On Aug 20, President Vladimir Putin’s top foe collapsed on a plane and was taken to hospital in Siberia for two days before being flown out to Berlin, where tests found he had been poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent.

The German hospital announced he had emerged from a coma on Sept 7.

His allies and top international officials have said the onus is on Russia to prove that the poisoning was not state-ordered and hold a proper investigation, while Russia argues it needs evidence from tests in Germany and other countries to do so.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2020