Russia orders probe of opposition leader Navalny

By the Associated Press | July 5, 2012 | 8:37 AM EDT

FILE - In this Tuesday, May 8, 2012 file photo, Alexei Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption whistle blower and blogger speaks to protesters gathered near the presidential administrations building in downtown Moscow, a day after Putin's inauguration as president. An Associated Press-GfK poll has shown that 60 percent of Russians still maintain a favorable opinion of Putin, who won a third presidential term in March's election despite massive protests in Moscow against his rule. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr,file)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's chief investigator on Thursday ordered a review of a closed probe against prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, raising the pressure on those leading protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Investigative Committee ran a probe into Navalny's alleged embezzlement of a state-owned timber company in the Kirov region from 2011 to May this year, when the case was closed.

Speaking at an annual assembly of investigators from all over the country, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, chided the chief investigator for Kirov on Thursday for closing the probe without informing his Moscow bosses.

"You had a criminal case against this man and you quietly closed it," Bastrykin said in televised remarks. "There's no forgiving and no mercy for things like this."

Bastrykin also referred to Navalny's leaked emails, which Navalnly's opponents say could prove his guilt.

Investigators looked into reports that Navalny, while an aide to the Kirov region's governor, Nikita Belykh, in 2007, could have pushed through decisions at the KirovLes timber company that caused it 1 million rubles ($30,800) in damages. Navalny has dismissed the accusations as ridiculous.

Navalny told the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Thursday that Bastrykin's outburst could have been a reaction to his petition to the same Investigative Committee on Tuesday to investigate Bastrykin's reported threats to kill an investigative reporter.

Hackers last week leaked an email exchange between Navalny and Belykh where the two discuss financial matters. Both Navalny and Belykh insist that they were discussing money involved in their personal businesses ties, which date back to their dealings prior to Belykh's appointment as governor.