Opposition chief Navalny says barred from leaving Russia

Blanche Robertson
November 15, 2018

The Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been prevented from flying out of a Moscow airport to travel to France for a hearing at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

Navalny, a vociferous critic of President Vladimir Putin, was refused permission to leave Russian Federation by border guards who said they had received orders from the Federal Bailiff Service Directorate of Russian Federation, which according to the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), a non-profit organization founded by Navalny that was reporting closely on the incident, does not exist.

"It's obvious that's why they banned me from leaving", Navalny told Ekho.

Two separate, previous criminal cases have prevented Mr Navalny from traveling in the past, but the ban was lifted a year ago when he had to travel to Spain for urgent medical treatment.

He also added that he has no unpaid fines that could be the reason for the travel ban.

It said the body that would normally have the power to withhold permission to leave the country was called the Federal Bailiff Service of Russian Federation, which was split into regional entities, adding, however, that this organ of the state only had the power to block a citizen from leaving the country if they had outstanding court rulings or debts.

"We did not receive any official documents on this", his lawyer Ivan Zhdanov told AFP. It was unclear how long the ban remained in force.

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Navalny said he had checked the registry on the eve of his flight and said it contained no information about the fine.

Navalny was barred from leaving the country between 2013 and 2017, when authorities refused to issue a passport because of legal cases against him that were then active.

Navalny had just finished a month-long sentence in September for organising anti-Kremlin protests when he was immediately re-arrested and charged over a separate rally. At the time, Amnesty International described him as a prisoner of conscience and said he had committed no crime.

His anti-corruption rhetoric is especially popular with younger people who follow him online.

The 42-year-old lawyer sought to challenge Vladimir Putin at a presidential election in March, but was barred from taking part over a past conviction which he says was politically motivated.

The politician, his former business partner Pyotr Ofitserov and a third man, the former director of Kirovles state timber company who gave evidence against them, were convicted of embezzlement over a 2009 business deal. He lost the lawsuit past year but Navalny said the court never provided any documents or banking details for him to pay the damages.

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