Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has been charged with embezzlement by the Kremlin's State Investigative Committee.
Navalny is a well-known blogger, activist and protest organizer who has mounted a public campaign against President Vladimir Putin and his cronies since joining the opposition party Yabloko in 2000. As a stockholder in a spate of state-owned companies, he lobbied for greater transparency in the state's financial affairs.
He also served as a governor's advisor in Russia's Kirov region, according to the Associated Press. During the period, the government now alleges, Navalny made plans to steal about $500,000 in assets from a state-owned timber company.
"The charges are absolutely absurd," said Navalny to reporters.
A trial is not scheduled for the immediate future; instead, authorities will now commence investigations into Navalny's history and financial affairs. If he is eventually convicted, he could face a decade in prison.
The charges evince the Kremlin's increased boldness in targeting dissenters, and Navalny has denied them vehemently.
"There is no motive, there is no self-interest, the amount of damage is taken out of the blue," he said on his widely read blog. "The Investigative Committee has no shame."