The political group of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny was declared "extremist" by a Russian court late Wednesday night, effectively prohibiting the movement's activities.
After Russian authorities halted the political organization's activities in April, the decision was widely predicted. It will effectively bar Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) from operating and his associates from participating in elections. It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin passed laws earlier this month prohibiting people linked to extremist groups from running for office for a period of three to five years. This fall, Russians will vote in legislative elections.
The FBK and Navalny's headquarters network was designated as extremist organizations by a Moscow court tonight, according to a post on the Russian opposition leader's Instagram. “When corruption is at the heart of the administration, anti-corruption activists are branded as extremists.”
“We will not abandon our ideals and ideas,” the post said. We have no other country except this one. Please do not leave us.”
In a statement, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the verdict as "perverse." “It is a deliberate attempt to virtually ban genuine political opposition in Russia, and it is another Kafka-esque attack on anyone standing up against corruption and for free societies.”
“Last night, in a private process, without access for the press or the public, the ‘court' certified the FBK and Alexei Navalny's regional offices as extremist organizations,” Navalny's top aide Lyubov Sobol tweeted. This process will go down in history books as one of Putin's most heinous acts during his reign.”
The decision comes before US President Joe Biden's June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, which is expected to be marred by worries from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and others.
After returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering after being poisoned with the nerve toxin Novichok, Navalny was arrested and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He blames the attack on the Russian state. The Russian government has denied any connection.