Russian prosecutors charged political activist and Yale World Fellow Alexei Navalny with embezzlement, which carries a prison term of five to 10 years.

Russia’s State Investigative Committee alleged that Navalny orchestrated a scheme to steal timber from state-owned company KirovLes while acting as an unpaid adviser, causing $500,000 in losses. But Navalny, who was arrested while leading high-profile protests against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s government in December, said the charges were politically motivated, according to the New York Times.

“They are doing it to watch the reaction of the protest movement and of Western public opinion,” Navalny said. “So far they consider both of these things acceptable and so they are continuing along this line.”

Navalny faced similar charges in 2011, though they were dropped earlier this year. Upon leaving a hearing Tuesday, he called the charges “absurd and very strange” and said he believed the renewed charges were a response to the May 6 protest he organized on the eve of Putin’s inauguration.

Navalny, a member of the 2010 World Fellows class, first attracted attention in Russia as a blogger about corruption in Russian state-owned companies.