Russia's veteran human rights defender Lyudmila Alexeyeva suspects that a criminal investigation started against opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg is politically motivated.

"I absolutely refuse to believe that Navalny is guilty. All this has been invented to disgrace him and put him behind bars. He will be put in prison. I am certain about that," Alexeyeva, who also heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Interfax on Friday.

The way the Russian authorities are treating Navalny is wrong, she said.

"They will do a stupid thing to him, as they did to Khodorkovsky," she said.

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, convicted of oil theft, is serving a lengthy prison sentence. Rights campaigners insist that he is not guilty.

"In the case of Navalny, it is politically motivated persecution disguised as a criminal case. Such things happen in our country very often," Alexeyeva said.

On Friday, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin announced the start of a criminal inquiry against opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his brother, who are suspected of involvement in misappropriating 55 million rubles in the cargo transportation sector.

"Oleg Navalny and Alexei Navalny defrauded a trading company of more than 55 million rubles," Markin told Interfax on Friday.

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