Reacting to the news that a Russian court designated three organizations founded by Aleksei Navalny as “extremist,” Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:
“With this decision, the Russian authorities have equated the activities of civil society organizations with serious crime, placing tens of thousands of Navalny’s supporters at risk of prosecution. This is one of the Kremlin’s most cynical and brazen attempts so far to crack down on the rights to freedom of expression and association. Combined with recent legislative changes, this ruling effectively bars anyone who has associated with or even supported these three organizations from standing for public office for up to five years.
“An unparalleled campaign of politically-motivated repression has rolled out in recent months in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s regime is compensating for its waning public support by creating an atmosphere of fear and despair, throwing its political rivals behind bars, forcing them out of the country and banning one after another those organizations held in disfavor by the regime.
“The ban on Aleksei Navalny’s organizations must be reversed immediately, and the Russian authorities must stop misusing ‘anti-extremist’ legislation to silence their critics. The rights of freedom of expression and association of those who hold critical opinions in the country must be fully guaranteed in accordance with international human rights law.”
On the evening of June 9, the Moscow City Court labelled as “extremist” and banned three organizations linked to prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny – the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation and “Navalny’s headquarters”. The ruling will enter into force after the end of an appeal or 30 days, unless successfully appealed. Anticipating the decision, the three affected groups had already announced that they were ceasing their work to protect their employees and supporters.
According to new amendments to “anti-extremism” legislation signed into law by Vladimir Putin last week, anyone who founded, led, worked for, or otherwise participated in the activities of “extremist” organizations are barred from running for any elected office for a period of between three and five years after the organization’s ban comes into force. Up to 200,000 people who contributed to Navalny’s crowdfunding efforts could fall foul of the new law, according to Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s associate, as the new law can be applied retroactively.