Russian Police Arrest Opposition Activist and Navalny Ally Lyubov Sobol

The opposition activist Lyubov E. Sobol, second left, with Aleksei A. Navalny, center, in Moscow in February. (Credit…Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press)

The police on Friday arrested a top ally and two employees of Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who over the summer narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning.

The arrests highlighted the extraordinary legal pressure that members of his opposition group face in Russia, which has persisted for years, and the heightened sensitivity of the authorities toward any activism related to the poisoning.

Earlier this month, Mr. Navalny and Bellingcat, an open-source investigative outlet, released a report and videos identifying members of what they said was a Russian intelligence agency squad, sent to trail and then assassinate Mr. Navalny during a trip to Siberia.

But the operation was bungled badly and its secrecy blown by information the team members left in telephone records and databases of airplane passengers, according to Bellingcat.

The accusations of a potentially lethal, almost cartoonish, plot to poison the Kremlin critic by placing nerve agent on his underpants have punctured the aura of invincibility and professionalism of one of Russia’s premier intelligence agencies, the Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B. The Kremlin has conceded that agents trailed Mr. Navalny during the trip to Siberia, but it has denied that they played any role in the poisoning.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer