On Wednesday, Russian justice has dealt the final blow to the organizations linked to the opposition leader Alexei Navalni. A Moscow judge has declared his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and the political movement linked to the dissident “extremists”, who is serving a prison sentence for another case. The label, of immediate application, not only prohibits these entities and dashes the hopes of their members to participate as independent candidates in the next parliamentary elections in September; Also, and accompanied by a new, more repressive legal framework approved in recent months and designed almost to measure, it opens the way for the umpteenth and harshest judicial persecution against Navalni's allies, the employees of its organizations, its active supporters and even your donors. They can now face sentences of more than a decade in prison and heavy fines. The lead lawyer in the case, Ivan Pavlov, has announced that they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Navalni, the fiercest critic against the Kremlin, and his allies denounce that the process that liquidates their organizations aims to silence them and erase them from the Russian political map. Despite that, the opponent stressed this Wednesday in an Instagram post sent through his team from prison, his fight for another Russia will continue to be there, active. “We are not a name, nor a piece of paper, nor an office. We are a group of people who unite and organize the citizens of Russia who are against corruption, to achieve fair courts and equality of all before the law. There are millions of them ", said the dissident," and we will not go anywhere. "
With Navalni behind bars, sentenced to two years and eight months for violating the terms of probation in an old – and controversial – case while he was in Germany recovering from the very serious poisoning he suffered last summer in Siberia and after which the West sees the Hand in hand with the Kremlin, the Russian authorities have endeavored to eradicate their allies, persecute and dissuade their supporters and strike down any dissident and opposition voice – political, social or media – before the crucial legislative elections in September.
The decision of this Wednesday to declare these organizations “extremists”, and which has come after more than 12 hours of hearing that has lasted until late at night, implies their total banning. Although in anticipation, and in view of the fear of new processes – and after the Prosecutor's Office suspended its operations on a precautionary basis – Navalni's allies decided at the end of April to close the foundation (created in 2011), which had already been declared “ foreign agent ”last year —another legal and economic obstacle to operate—. Also close the offices that the political movement linked to the opposition had forged in more than 40 cities in Russia; from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad.
Navalni, one of the most visible political enemies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, never managed to register a political party, but through his founding and the powerful and media investigations into the corruption of the Russian political and economic elite, he did knit a mesh of offices and delegations, unprecedented in the Russian 'controlled democracy' and very active in local politics that has managed to promote massive protests against the Kremlin. Cornered, the plan of many of Navalni's allies became independent activism. Some as your number two Lybov Sobol, aspired to stand as independents in the autumn parliamentarians.
In a case tried with evidence declared secret behind closed doors (and guarded by eight policemen) and in which the judges have not allowed Navalni's testimony by videoconference from prison, the Moscow Superior Prosecutor's Office has accused the entities linked to Navalni of be “coordinated” by foreign centers that carry out “destructive actions” against Russia and organize protests to overthrow the Government; also to the so-called "Navalni headquarters" (the political movement) of "involving" minors in it.
This Wednesday the prosecution accused Navalni's associates of going "beyond criticizing the government," according to the transcript published by the opposition's team of lawyers. "They are taking people to the streets to change the government by force," he added.
Russia's list of “extremist organizations” includes far-right groups, Islamist organizations but also Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, who face persecution and convictions across the country. The label has become, according to civil rights organizations, another formula for repression and a tool to silence dissent.
The appointment and condemnation of this Wednesday against the entities linked to the prominent opposition leader cuts the political trajectory of his allies and practically condemns them to ostracism thanks to a new law signed by Putin a few days ago, which prohibits anyone from participating in the elections for five years. person who has had a relationship with an “extremist organization” —not only to its leaders or members, but also to those who have given financial, “organizational, methodological, consultative” support – up to three years before being so labeled and outlawed.
Opposition and Dissidence Cornered
This Wednesday's decision, which gives the final blow to the Navalni entities and their allies, comes at one of the highest points of the Kremlin's repressive maneuvers against the Kremlin's dissent, and may further raise tension between Russia and the West on the eve of the historic summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and American Joe Biden, scheduled for a week in Geneva (Switzerland) and in which, among other serious issues, the Navalni case.
The Kremlin denies it is campaigning against the opposition, but the coup against Navalni's organizations is part of a broad repressive strategy by the Russian government against dissent, says Rachel Denber, director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch. . In recent months, the authorities have initiated new searches and arrests of opponents and activists critical of the Kremlin, which are accompanied by new laws that further threaten social organizations. Also another wave of cases against independent media.
The activist Andrei Pivovarov, until recently – when he ordered its dissolution to try to avoid the prosecution of its members – director of Open Russia, a civil opposition organization founded by the exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been in preventive prison for more than a week; he is accused of collaborating with an "undesirable" organization – a label imposed on Open Russia – a criminal offense. The former liberal deputy Dmitri Gudkov, who aspired to present himself to the legislatures as independent – his formation, the Party of Changes has not managed to register – was also arrested last week and declared a suspect in a case of property crimes that he denounces as "invented". On Monday he decided to leave Russia for fear of ending up behind bars.
Even the leader of a group of lawyers defending the organizations linked to Navalni, Ivan Pavlov, is on trial. A few days after starting to deal with the case for extremism and after emphasizing that he would try to reveal as much information as possible about the case, despite the fact that the evidence has been declared secret, the well-known lawyer, who heads Team 29, a A prominent organization that works with cases of freedom of thought, expression and on the security of the state, was accused of revealing classified information but of another high-level process, the one that is developed against the investigative journalist, Iván Safronov, accused of spying for NATO.