A Moscow court banned groups affiliated with Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny Wednesday, the latest example of the Kremlin’s crackdown on political dissent.
The ban classifies groups linked to Navalny as extremist and prevents them from participating in elections, Reuters reports. The court’s decision stemmed from a case brought by Moscow’s top prosecutor, who argued Navalny was attempting to use his political network to incite a revolution with U.S. backing, an allegation Navalny has denied.
Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which conducts and publicizes investigations into government corruption, was explicitly targeted in the ruling. If members or affiliates of the group run for office, officials are authorized to jail them and freeze their bank accounts, according to the Associated Press. (RELATED: ‘They’re Sick Of The Country’: Number Of Russians Seeking Asylum In The US Jumps Amid Pandemic, Protests).
The move was precipitated by Russian President Vladimir Putin signing legislation last week banning members of organizations deemed extremist from seeking public office.
The U.S. condemns a Moscow court’s decision to designate organizations affiliated with imprisoned opposition figure Aleksey Navalny as “extremist.” Russia has effectively criminalized one of the country’s few remaining independent political movements. https://t.co/VFDCykBKPe
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) June 9, 2021
State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the court’s decision in a statement Wednesday, declaring that “Russia has effectively criminalized one of the country’s few remaining independent political movements.”
“Mr. Navalny himself remains in poor health, imprisoned on politically fabricated grounds,” Price said, dismissing the arguments of the prosecution. “We call again for his immediate and unconditional release.”
Navalny is currently serving a two and a half-year prison sentence. He was the victim of a poisoning attack with the Russian-manufactured nerve agent Novichok last September, an attack which Navalny alleged was perpetrated by the Russian government.
The ruling comes one week before Putin is set to meet with President Joe Biden at a summit in Geneva. Biden had unsuccessfully urged the Russian president to release Navalny in January and has frequently criticized Putin’s policies towards political opposition.
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