Russian court classifies the Navalny organization as “extremist”
Russia’s judiciary has finally banned a number of organizations run by imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny. A court in Moscow classified the unions as extremist. Navalny’s supporters are no longer allowed to run in the election.
eA Moscow court has banned groups of imprisoned Kremlin dissident Alexei Navalny. On Wednesday, the government demanded that the Anti-Corruption Trust and its network of regional offices be classified as extremist organizations. According to observers, the ruling joins the authorities’ latest move to weaken the opposition ahead of the parliamentary elections in September.
The court hearing on Navalny’s groups took place behind closed doors. Ivan Pavlov, chairman of the Legal Committee, said the judge also rejected an application by defense to allow members of the opposition to participate via video from prison. Other movements of defense were also rejected. There can be no question of equal representation of the parties in the case.
Navalny’s offices in dozens of Russian regions have been closed since April, after prosecutors issued a restraining order pending a court ruling with a temporary work ban.
The Navalnis Foundation was founded ten years ago. Since then, he has repeatedly exposed corruption among senior Russian officials – often with the help of widely acclaimed YouTube videos. For example, in one clip, there was talk of a luxury palace in the Black Sea, allegedly built for President Vladimir Putin using a sophisticated corruption scheme. The video has already garnered 117 million views, and the Kremlin has denied any involvement with Putin.
Navalny also built a comprehensive network of regional offices in dozens of Russian regions in 2017, when he was due to run against Putin in next year’s presidential election. The Kremlin critic eventually rejected the candidacy, but he retained the post. Soon this regional “headquarters” began their own investigations into corruption among local politicians and recruiters, some of whom later ran for office. These offices also play a key role in organizing large-scale protests across the country in solidarity with Navalny.
Navalny advertised his “smart vote” program through his regional offices. It is a tactic to give one voice to the most likely candidates to defeat the respective candidate of the Kremlin-backed United Russia party.
When the judiciary reviewed the ban on Navalny’s groups, Russian MPs rushed to pass a new law. This provides that members classified as extremist groups are not allowed to run for public office. Only last week did Putin sign the bill. With the recent court ruling, the hopes of many Navalny allies who wanted to run in the parliamentary elections could be shattered.
“Navalny’s team will not stand”
Ivan Zhtanov, Navalny’s senior campaigner and former chairman of his foundation, accused the court of waiting only until the law came into force so that Navalny’s organizations could be declared extremists. Zhanov, an exiled independent broadcaster, told Tosht that corrupt activists would continue to be exposed and that a “smart voting” strategy would be used. “Navalny’s team will not stop their actions and they should not believe so.”