MOSCOW – The Russian authorities have frozen the assets of Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned last month, at the behest of a Kremlin-allied businessman known as “Putin’s cook,” the Navalny spokeswoman said Thursday.
Mr. Navalny, the most prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, was still in a medically-related coma in a hospital in Berlin when his assets were frozen.
A court banned Mr. Navalny from selling or mortgaging his apartment in southeast Moscow, and his bank accounts were frozen. Kira Yarmysh, the speaker, said in a video posted on her Twitter account. The order was dated August 27, a week after Mr. Navalny poisoned with the Military grade nerve agent Novichok. But his lawyers only recently learned of the court’s decision, Ms. Yarmysh said.
The legal maneuver was initiated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the catering magnate who is and is close to Mr Putin known as “Putin’s Cook”.In August, Mr Prigozhin moved to collect damages Mr Navalny owed in a 2019 defamation lawsuit – and shyly promised to pursue the debt as long as Mr. Navalny survived the poisoning.
“If Comrade Navalny gives his soul to God, then of course I have no intention of persecuting him in this world,” Prigozhin said in a statement last month.
Mr Navalny was released from the Berlin hospital on Wednesday, 32 days after he was evacuated by plane from Siberia, where he was poisoned.
The Russian authorities have frozen Mr Navalny and his team’s assets In front, Movements that complicated his anti-Putin activism but never silenced him. The recent freeze amid international condemnation for the unexplained poisoning of Mr Navalny signaled that the Kremlin has no plans to give up its pressure on the opposition leader even if he tries to restore his health.
The Russian government has insisted that the West use Mr Navalny as part of a calculated campaign to weaken Mr Putin. Russian officials have also alleged that Mr Navalny could not have been poisoned at all. (Laboratory tests in Germany, France and Sweden have all identified Novichok.)
Mr Prigozhin was previously involved in some secret operations by Russia, including meddling in the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
Mr. Navalny’s team reported last year that a school food supplier owned by Mr. Prigozhin was responsible for a spate of illnesses among Moscow school children. Mr. Prigozhin denied ownership of the company and won a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Navalny and his team that awarded him more than $ 1 million in damages.
“Instead of taking the side of child victims, the court took Prigozhin’s side and now someone who was in a coma has their accounts and home frozen,” Ms. Yarmysh, the spokeswoman, said in her video message on Thursday . “That’s all you need to know about the Russian judicial system.”