Head of Navalny group resigns over sanctions-relief letter

MOSCOW (AP) — The chairman of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's investigative foundation resigned Thursday over a letter he wrote seeking the lifting of European Union sanctions against top officials of a group that includes one of Russia's largest banks.

On Wednesday, the former chief editor of the now-closed Echo of Moscow radio station, Alexei Venediktov, posted what he said was a letter signed by Leonid Volkov and other prominent figures to European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Volkov denied signing that letter, but on Thursday he released a copy of one he sent himself to Borrell in October asking for lifting of the sanctions. He said he had overstepped his authority and would step aside from the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

“It is by far not the case that all representatives of the Russian business sector are beneficiaries and/or supporters of (President Vladimir) Putin's regime,” he wrote to Borrell. “On the contrary, many of them have taken a firm stand to support Ukraine.”

He wrote on the Telegram messaging app Thursday that he had believed it was possible to use Russian military setbacks at the time to fuel public condemnation of the Kremlin’s military action and a split in the Russian elites — and acknowledged his mistake.

Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organized massive anti-Kremlin protests, is serving a nine-year fraud sentence in a maximum-security prison 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow.

He was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he recuperated from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He was given a 2 1/2-year sentence for a parole violation and last year was sentenced to nine years for fraud and contempt of court.

The Associated Press