Navalny network added to Russian extremist list

·3-min read

Russia on Friday added Alexei Navalny's political network to its database of terrorist and extremist organisations, as Moscow moves closer to shutting down the jailed opposition politician's movement against President Vladimir Putin.

The network of Navalny's regional offices appeared on a list maintained by Russia's financial monitoring service after Rosfinmonitoring said Friday it had updated the list. Navalny's network had disbanded Thursday in anticipation of the move.

Organisations on the list include the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda. Being listed bans them in Russia, with members and supporters facing lengthy jail terms.

It was not immediately clear whether the move was related to a request by prosecutors earlier this month to designate Navalny's regional network and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as extremist organisations.

But the former coordinator of Navalny's offices in Moscow, Oleg Stepanov, indicated on Telegram that the move was connected to the ongoing court case.

"Well of course, why wait? After all, the decision of the 'court' is already known in advance: fighting corruption in Putin's Russia is 'extremism'," he wrote.

"They don't even try to create the appearance of legality."

The move came as Russian police on Friday detained a prominent rights lawyer defending the regional network and the FBK against the extremism charges.

The lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, was accused of disclosing information about a preliminary investigation into a different case, an offence punishable by up to three months in jail.

He was detained just four days after his group, Team 29, announced it would be taking on the case against Navalny's organisations.

- 'Shocking sentence' -

Pavlov was released late on Friday and was ordered not to use the internet or to communicate with witnesses in his case.

The court hearings in the case against the foundation and the regional network are expected to resume on May 17.

On Thursday, Navalny's key aide Leonid Volkov said the regional network was disbanding ahead of the court ruling, citing a threat to supporters and members.

The regional network was founded during Navalny's presidential campaign in 2018, although the opposition figure was barred from running.

It later supported his corruption investigations and his Smart Voting strategy, which directs voters to cast their ballots for candidates best placed to defeat Kremlin-linked opponents.

Navalny, 44, was arrested in January on his return to Russia from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a poisoning attack he says was orchestrated by Putin. The Kremlin denies the claim.

He is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence in a penal colony outside Moscow for violating parole terms on old fraud charges that he and his supporters say are politically motivated.

Navalny's allies had for years faced routine police searches and arrests for their activism, but authorities have ramped up the pressure since his return to Russia.

Most of his top aides are under house arrest or have left the country, while several allies have received lengthy jail terms.

On Thursday, a court sentenced a former coordinator of Navalny's offices in the northern city of Arkhangelsk to two and a half years behind bars on charges of spreading pornography by reposting on social media a music video by German rock band Rammstein.

The group's lead guitarist, Richard Kruspe, on Instagram described the "harshness" of the sentence as "shocking".

"Rammstein have always stood up for the freedom of art as a guaranteed basic right of all people," he wrote.

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