Russian prosecutors said on Monday that Moscow mayoral candidate and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has accepted illegal donations from abroad to fund his electoral campaign. The allegations were immediately denied by Navalny. “The information about foreign funding for Navalny’s electoral campaign was confirmed during checks,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said in an online statement published on Monday. “More than 300 foreign individuals and organizations, and anonymous donations from 46 countries (including the United States, Finland, Britain, Sweden and Canada) from 347 IP addresses have been sent to the electronic fund of Navalny and members of his campaign headquarters,” the statement said. Navalny ridiculed prosecutors in a subsequent blog post, pointing out that a foreign IP address does not mean that a donation was made by a foreign citizen, and adding that all donations to his campaign were approved by Moscow’s Election Commission or were returned to the donors.
“Officially 1.2 million Russian citizens live abroad, but this figure is really five times bigger. Several million are now on holiday abroad. And there are hundreds of thousands of internet users in Russia using foreign IP addresses,” Navalny wrote. Navalny was released ahead of an appeal last month after receiving a five-year prison sentence for embezzlement.
Yandex.Money, the online electronic payments system used by the Navalny campaign, said that they had not been contacted by prosecutors over the issue, and pointed out that only individuals, not organisations, can make donations through their system. “We do not understand within what parameters the Prosecutor General’s Office has reached its conclusions about foreigners,” said Yandex.Money spokeperson Asya Melkumova, Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy reported. “IP addresses only tell you about a person’s physical location, not about his citizenship.”