Anti-Putin activist barred from leaving Russia
Moscow : Russian opposition figurehead Alexey Navalny on Tuesday said he was prevented from leaving the country to attend a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, which is set to rule on whether his numerous arrests by Russian authorities were politically motivated.
His arrests were linked to his anti-corruption activism and his involvement in organizing protests.
Navalny, a vociferous critic of President Vladimir Putin, was refused permission to leave Russia by border guards who said they had received orders from the Federal Bailiff Service Directorate of Russia, 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.
"The ECHR will soon announce its ruling on whether or not my numerous detentions were politically motivated. Apparently, Putin's regime thinks that not letting me fly to Strasbourg to hear this ruling will change anything," Navalny wrote on his Twitter page on Tuesday morning.
FBK claimed the letter handed to Navalny refusing him travel rights had been forged, Efe news reported.
It said the body that would normally have the power to withhold permission to leave the country was called the Federal Bailiff Service of Russia, 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.
The anti-corruption foundation said Navalny had several pending court rulings on blogs he had refused to remove but that a separate claim of damages, amounting to around 2.2 million rubles ($32,450), had suddenly revealed under his name in the FSB database.
"The lawyers managed to reach the bailiff in charge of all enforcement proceedings regarding Navalny, and he claimed that he never imposed any restrictions on Navalny's freedom of travel," the FBK article said.
Navalny has been arrested by Russian authorities on numerous occasions and has served time for organizing unsanctioned protests.
He was prevented from running in the March 2018 presidential election due to a previous corruption conviction which the activist said was politically motivated.