A Russian court in Kirov has refused a request to drop graft and theft charges against leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The anti-corruption campaigner claims he is on trial on trumped-up charges because of his criticisms of President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny, 36, is accused of stealing nearly half a million euros from a timber firm that he advised while working for the region’s governor in 2009.
He is the most prominent opposition leader to be tried in post-Soviet Russia and was key to organising some of the biggest anti-Kremlin protests.
Navalny was also behind a massive online campaign against corruption that began in 2007.
The Kremlin denies interfering with the process or clamping down on opponents to crush dissent.
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