Russia accuses Navalny of 'illegal lawyer status'

Russia's main investigative body claimed Wednesday that Alexei Navalny, the charismatic leader of protests against President Vladimir Putin, illegally obtained his licence to practise law.

Investigators said in a statement that the opposition leader and one of Russia's most popular bloggers gave "inaccurate" information to the bar.

It was unclear what laws Navalny allegedly broke and what charges he might face.

Navalny, already the subject of several criminal probes, responded on Twitter by calling the allegations "complete rubbish".

He later Tweeted that he briefly met with an investigator regarding one of the probes, but his lawyer licence was not discussed. He said Wednesday's statement apparently referred to an interrogation dating back to August 2012.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin however said on Twitter that "the questioning took place much earlier." He did not explain the timing of Wednesday's press-release.

The investigators said that Navalny claimed to the bar that he had a few years experience as a deputy director in charge of legal affairs at a company but that in fact this was his own company where he was general director. They said he also exaggerated the length of time he worked there.

The investigators' statement echoed nearly verbatim allegations made by a pro-Kremlin blogger last week.

The square-jawed lawyer emerged as one of the most popular leaders of mass protests against Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term, although some liberals oppose him because of his appearances at nationalist rallies.

He built on the following he had gained as a whistle-blowing blogger and minority shareholder campaigner.

The 36-year-old has come under several criminal probes, including one alleging that he caused a loss of 16 million rubles to a regional budget that could put him in jail for up to 10 years. He has not yet been arrested, unlike many other opposition activists.