New case against jailed Kremlin critic Navalny goes to court next week

Kremlin critic Navalny appears in court via video link in Kovrov

(Reuters) - Moscow's city court will hold a hearing on May 31 in a new case against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, according to official documents posted online, on charges that could keep him in prison for decades.

Navalny, who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin's elite and alleging vast corruption, said last month that an "absurd" terrorism case had been opened against him that could see him sentenced to a further 30 years in jail.

Russia has already all but extinguished domestic political opposition and civil society under Putin. But since invading Ukraine early last year, it has sought to snuff out all vestiges of dissent with new censorship laws and long jail terms for those publicly opposing the war.

Navalny, who says Russia will lose a war that he says has inflicted pain on millions of innocent Ukrainians, is already serving combined sentences of 11-1/2 years for fraud and contempt of court in a maximum-security penal colony, on charges that he says were trumped up to silence him.

His campaigning organisations and his flagship Anti-Corruption Fund have been banned in Russia as "extremist".

The court record said the charges against Navalny, a former lawyer, related to six different articles of the Russian criminal code:

- rehabilitation of Nazism

- creation of an extremist organisation

- making public appeals to commit extremist activity - covering two separate instances

- inducing citizens to break the law

- financing extremist activity

- involvement of a minor in the commission of acts endangering the life of a minor

In a tweet posted on his account by his supporters, Navalny wrote: "Well, Alexei, you're in some real trouble now ... The Prosecutor General's Office has officially provided me with 3,828 pages describing all the crimes I've committed while already imprisoned."

He said he had not been allowed to read the material to find out what exactly he was accused of because he was currently in solitary confinement - as he has been for much of his time in prison - and allowed only a mug and one book.

Navalny, 46, earned admiration from the disparate opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a Soviet-era nerve agent. The Kremlin denied trying to kill him and said there was no evidence he had been poisoned with such a toxin.

It was not immediately clear which specific actions or incidents the charges referred to.

"Rehabilitation of Nazism" may refer to Navalny's declarations of support for Ukraine, whose government Russia accuses of embodying Nazi ideology - an accusation dismissed as baseless by Kyiv and its Western allies.

Last month, investigators formally linked Navalny supporters to the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky, a popular military blogger and supporter of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine who was killed by a bomb in St Petersburg last month.

Russia's National Anti-terrorism Committee (NAC) said Ukrainian intelligence had organised the bombing with help from Navalny's supporters.

This appeared to be a reference to the fact that a suspect arrested over the killing once registered to take part in an anti-Kremlin voting scheme promoted by Navalny's movement. Navalny allies denied any connection to the killing.

Navalny's supporters have called for worldwide demonstrations in his support on June 4, his birthday.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Frances Kerry)