Russia Freezes Navalny’s Assets as He Recovers From Poisoning


MOSCOW — Russian authorities froze the assets of Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader poisoned last month, at the behest of a Kremlin-allied businessman known as “Putin’s chef,” Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Mr. Navalny, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent, was still in a medically induced coma in a hospital in Berlin when his assets were frozen.

A court barred Mr. Navalny from selling or mortgaging his apartment in southeastern Moscow, and his bank accounts have been frozen, Kira Yarmysh, the spokeswoman, said in a video posted to her Twitter account. The order was dated Aug. 27, a week after Mr. Navalny was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. But his lawyers learned of the court’s decision only recently, Ms. Yarmysh said.

The legal maneuver was brought on by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the catering magnate who is close to Mr. Putin and is known as “Putin’s chef.” In August, Mr. Prigozhin moved to collect damages that Mr. Navalny owed in a libel lawsuit from 2019 — and coyly pledged to pursue the debt as long as Mr. Navalny survived the poisoning.

“Of course, if Comrade Navalny gives his soul to God, then I personally do not intend to go after him in this world,” Mr. Prigozhin said in a statement last month.

Mr. Navalny was released from the Berlin hospital on Wednesday, 32 days after being evacuated by air from Siberia, where he was poisoned.

The Russian authorities have frozen the assets of Mr. Navalny and his team before, moves that complicated his anti-Putin activism but never silenced it. The latest freeze, done in the midst of international condemnation over the unexplained poisoning of Mr. Navalny, signaled that the Kremlin has no plans to let up on its pressure against the opposition leader, even as he attempts to recover his health.

The Russian government has insisted that the West is using Mr. Navalny as part of a calculated campaign to weaken Mr. Putin. Russian officials have also claimed that Mr. Navalny may not have been poisoned at all. (Laboratory tests in Germany, France and Sweden have all identified Novichok.)

Mr. Prigozhin has been involved in some of Russia’s clandestine operations before, including interference in the 2016 presidential election in the United States.

Mr. Navalny’s team reported last year that a school food supplier owned by Mr. Prigozhin was to blame for a spate of illnesses among Moscow schoolchildren. Mr. Prigozhin denied owning the company and won a libel lawsuit against Mr. Navalny and his team that awarded him more than $1 million in damages.

“Rather than taking the side of the child victims, the court took the side of Prigozhin, and now the accounts and the apartment of a person who was in a coma have been frozen,” Ms. Yarmysh, the spokeswoman, said in her video message on Thursday. “This is all you need to know about the Russian justice system.”

Source : Nytimes