by Kathy Lally
MOSCOW — Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was put under house arrest for two months Friday and was prohibited from using the Internet, texting or speaking with anyone but his family.
A Moscow court imposed the two months of silence on Navalny, who has used his blog and Twitter account to document and publicize his investigations into official corruption, after investigators accused him of violating an order to stay within the Moscow city limits.
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The move in Moscow appeared based on an account of events that was disputed by Ukrainian officials.
“It’s persecution for dissent and expression of a person’s ideas,” Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told the Interfax news agency, “persecution for convictions and freedom of speech.”
Navalny, 37, has been bombarded with one criminal charge after another since he emerged as a charismatic leader of the protest movement more than two years ago. He had been under travel restrictions after he was accused of defrauding the Yves Rocher cosmetics company. Investigators said he and his brother, Oleg Navalny, had set up a delivery company that charged the cosmetics company too much for its services.
Investigators asked for the house arrest because they said Navalny had strayed into the Moscow suburbs, although Navalny argued he was permitted to travel there.
His most recent corruption target has been the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which he said were used to funnel large sums of money to allies of President Vladimir Putin.
Last year, Navalny was convicted of embezzlement in the city of Kirov, where he had briefly served as an adviser to the local governor. That charge and the other cases have been widely criticized as politically motivated and pressed by authorities without any real evidence.
Although his five-year sentence was eventually suspended, the conviction prevents Navalny from running for office.
This week, he was sentenced to seven days in jail after he was detained by police as he was preparing to join a protest against the sentencing of seven people who were part of an anti-Putin demonstration in May 2012.