Putin critic faces new graft claim

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Russian investigators have ­increased pressure on one of president Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics, opening a new criminal investigation against Alexei Navalny a day after he went on trial on theft charges.

Navalny, who has helped organise protests against Mr Putin and is a campaigner against state corruption, denies any wrongdoing and says charges are being falsified against him as part of a Kremlin campaign to crush the opposition.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which answers directly to Mr Putin, yesterday said Navalny and his brother Oleg were suspected of defrauding a company out of 3.8 million roubles (£80,000) by organising mail transport for them at excessive prices in 2008.

It is the fourth criminal case opened against Navalny in recent months.

Navalny reacted with humour to the announcement of the new investigation on his Twitter feed as he travelled back to Moscow by train after going on trial on Wednesday on charges of theft in the city of Kirov. “I woke up on the train. I found out that another criminal case has been launched. That means our trip was successful,” he tweeted.