Putin committee turns up heat on protest leader

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Russian investigators have said a prominent critic of president Vladimir Putin gained his qualifications as a lawyer illegally, piling more pressure on the opposition leader who already faces three criminal investigations.

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger, was a leader of a street protest movement against Putin’s 13-year rule that started after mass allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election in December 2011.

Russia’s federal Investigative Committee, which answers only to Mr Putin, has launched criminal charges against several leaders of the street protests. The committee said yesterday that Mr Navalny had provided fraudulent paperwork to confirm the work experience he had needed to become qualified as a lawyer.

Mr Navalny, who worked as a commercial lawyer before taking up political activism, said there were no grounds to strip him of his legal credentials.

The 36-year-old has already been charged with stealing timber worth more than $500,000 (£330,000) in 2009; embezzling up to $3.24 million in 2007; andcheating a mail transport company out of $1.79m.