Putin foe Navalny claims he's bugged
Russia's popular protest leader Alexei Navalny said Monday he had discovered a bug planted in the wall of his Moscow office and accused state investigators of illegally spying on his life.
The 36-year-old corporate lawyer said his colleagues had found the listening device after scanning the office of his Anti-Corruption Fund with a special detector and then removing a lower section of the floor moulding.
Navalny then posted several photographs showing what looked like a black microphone attached to thin red and white wires that ran along the wall and disappeared into an opening used by other cables.
The alleged finding came just a month after unknown hackers broke into Navalny's e-mails just as he was being probed into his role in bloody clashes that broke out on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's return to a third term in May.
"Here it is -- the bug of Czech agent (Alexander) Bastrykin," Navalny tweeted in reference to the powerful head of Russia's Investigative Committee.
Navalny recently accused Bastrykin of secretly owning property and running a business in the Czech Republic that he allegedly used as cover for his spying activities in the past decade.
Putin's close ally denied the charges and the Kremlin has only said that it was ready to look at any proof that Navalny could offer.
Bastrykin's office last week also filed embezzlement charges against the protest leader linked to an old regional business case that may put Navalny in jail for 10 years.
The standoff between Russia's most powerful investigator and one of the country's most politically ambitious critics of Putin comes as dozens of protest leaders face criminal probes they see as politically motivated.
Supporters fear Navalny and such recognised Russian personalities as the socialite and TV presenter Ksenya Sobchak could soon end up behind bars for offences ranging from tax evasion to inciting unrest on the street.
But both Navalny and his supporters have tried to fight back against Putin's powerful security men in a type of dissident practice that to many would have seemed unimaginable before the first popular protests broke out in December.
"Navalny has been bugged -- what a shocker," Sobchak wrote with irony on her own Twitter account. "Who would have thunk it?"
© 2012 AFP