‘End of an Era’: Russia Adds Navalny Political Network to ‘Terrorist and Extremist’ List

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s political network has been blacklisted as a “terrorist-linked” organization, Russia’s state financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring said Friday.

“Navalny Networks” now appears on Rosfinmonitoring’s searchable database of groups and persons with links to terrorist activities, which includes al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State. The designation means that authorities can block the organization’s bank accounts.

A Moscow court ruling banning the network’s crowdfunded work, as well as Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), as “extremist” organizations is expected next month. The ruling would ban the nationwide network of some 50 regional headquarters from operating and put members and supporters at risk of lengthy jail terms.

The network, which was founded in 2017 during Navalny’s quashed attempt to run for president, formally disbanded Thursday in anticipation of the Moscow court ruling. Prosecutors previously suspended the group’s operations, banning it from using bank accounts, posting online, organizing protests or participating in elections.

Navalny’s senior aide Leonid Volkov has said that the ruling would not affect the team’s “Smart Voting” strategy that seeks to unseat pro-Putin ruling party incumbents in this fall’s key parliamentary elections. 

However, he predicted that the movement would most likely transform into independent political entities.

Former Navalny staffers across Russia told The Moscow Times that the ruling meant the end of the organization’s current structure. 

“Frankly, I have to be honest, we don’t have a plan for the future, but its clear its the end of an era,” said Diana Rudkova, the former head of Team Navalny in Tambov. Rudkova said she was currently “in survival mode,” scrambling to detach herself and other staff members from the organization, to prevent legal issues.

“Right now we are doing everything to guarantee the safety of our former staff. We are ending internet contracts, electricity bills, anything that could tie us to the Navalny movement.”

Rudkova’s sentiment was echoed by other staffers across Russia who said their main priority was to guarantee the safety of former members and volunteers.

Navalny, 44, is serving two and a half years in a notoriously harsh prison outside Moscow after being found guilty in February of violating parole on an old fraud case while recovering from a near-fatal poisoning abroad. 

He was detained immediately upon landing in Moscow in January and has since faced a litany of slew of lawsuits and criminal cases, ranging from defaming a World War II veteran to creating an organization that “infringes on the liberties and rights of individuals.” 

His and FBK’s January exposé of President Vladimir Putin’s alleged $1.3 billion seaside palace has racked up more than 100 million views on YouTube and fueled massive nationwide protests against his rule.

Rosfinmonitoring’s designation comes amid what observers say is Russia’s widening crackdown on the opposition. 

On Thursday, a former Navalny coordinator was jailed for 2.5 years on pornography charges stemming from his social media repost of a music video by German metal band Rammstein. The next morning, the lawyer representing Navalny’s network was detained on criminal charges of sharing investigative details.

This story is being updated.

The Navalny network is designated as a group with links to terrorist activities in Russia.

(c) The Moscow Times

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