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Russian opposition chief Navalny goes to EU after ban

2 min

Moscow (AFP)

Russia's top opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Wednesday was allowed to leave Russia, a day after border guards prevented him from flying out of Moscow for a European court ruling.

"He has flown out," Navalny's lawyer Ivan Zhdanov told AFP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's top critic posted a photo of himself and a border guard on social media at passport control, saying "this time everything was OK."

On Tuesday the 42-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was barred from leaving Russia as he planned to travel to Strasbourg for a hearing at the European court of human rights on whether his recent detentions were politically motivated.

The Russian Federal Bailiff service said at the time he was being prevented from leaving over a 2.1 million ruble ($31,000) fine connected to a 2013 conviction.

But the opposition politician wrote that he had "no unpaid fines" and that "the last time I left the country two weeks ago, everything was ok".

On Wednesday, he said he had incurred financial losses and would sue the bailiff service.

Under Russian law, those who have unpaid debts can be blocked from leaving the country.

Lawyers for the anti-corruption campaigner on Tuesday called the bailiffs who told them that they did not order the ban.

Authorities have in recent months turned up the heat on the top Kremlin critic, after Putin's approval ratings took a beating over an unpopular pension reform and the ruling United Russia party suffered setbacks in regional polls.

Navalny had just finished a month-long sentence in September for organising anti-Kremlin protests when he was immediately re-arrested and charged over a separate rally.

The Yale-educated lawyer was sentenced to a further 20 days and finally released last month.

Navalny was barred from leaving the country between 2013 and 2017, when authorities refused to issue a passport because of legal cases against him.

He was eventually given a travel document and allowed to leave the country in May last year to seek treatment in Spain for damage to his eye after an assailant threw green dye in his face in Moscow.

He was barred from running against Putin in a presidential election in March.

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