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Russia probes Kremlin critic ally after nixing vote registration

13 august 2015, 11:20

Russian investigators on Wednesday questioned a top ally of opposition leader Alexei Navalny after excluding his coalition from a regional election, AFP reports.

Investigators in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk opened a criminal probe against activist Leonid Volkov over allegations he broke a pro-Kremlin journalist's microphone that he slammed as fabricated.   

Volkov had been spearheading a push by an opposition coalition to register for a regional poll in Novosibirsk that was definitively blocked by election officials last week.  

Volkov published scans of the documents served to him by local investigators online. When contacted by AFP he said he was being questioned.

The document alleges that he prevented a journalist from pro-Kremlin channel Life News from filming in the campaign offices in July. 

It also claims Volkov damaged the journalist's microphone to the tune of $470, saying there was "sufficient" evidence to prove a crime had been committed.

Volkov denied the charges, saying on Twitter that he "didn't break" the microphone.

Inhibiting journalistic work and damaging equipment carries a possible sentence of up to six years in prison.

Volkov has been a key figure in the campaign being run by Navalny whose bloc has faced problems registering candidates in several cities ahead of regional and local elections in September. 

Last week the central election committee barred the bloc from running in Novosibirsk on the grounds that some of the signatures they had collected to register were invalid.

"You will be accountable before millions of people who are unhappy with the lack of an alternative," Navalny told the committee on Friday, accusing them of pushing Russian society to "boiling point."

To protest the party being blocked, Volkov and several colleagues had earlier staged a hunger strike for 12 days before breaking it off at the weekend.

Russia's opposition has been marginalised under Putin and the coalition was planning to use its participation in the regional polls as a rehearsal for parliamentary elections next year.

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