Russian prosecutors on Monday ordered jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and its regional network to suspend all activities, pending a court ruling on whether to label it an extremist group.
A Moscow court on Monday began a preliminary hearing into designating FBK and its regional offices as “extremist” after prosecutors requested they be added to a list of “terrorist and extremist” organisations run by Russia‘s Anti-Terrorism Committee.
“The activities of Navalny‘s offices and FBK were immediately suspended,” FBK’s director Ivan Zhdanov wrote on Twitter on Monday, attaching screenshots of a prosecutor’s decision.
The Moscow City Court confirmed that the activities of the group’s regional network were suspended, but clarified that prosecutors had the power to make the decision and that a final court ruling on designating the group as extremist was still due.
A positive court ruling would give authorities the legal power to hand down jail terms to activists and freeze the groups’ bank accounts, essentially forcing them to stop campaigning for Russia’s highest-profile opposition figure.
In a statement on its Telegram channel, Navalny’s office in Moscow said the group will already “no longer be able to work” as usual.
“It would be too dangerous for our employees and for our supporters,” it said.
The team promised that it will continue to fight against corruption, the ruling United Russia party and President Vladimir Putin “in a personal capacity”.
“It will not be easy to fight, but we will win absolutely, because there are many of us and we are strong,” the group added.
Prosecutors on Friday said they had requested the extremism label for FBK and its regional offices because they are “engaged in creating conditions for the destabilisation of the social and socio-political situation.”
Prosecutors also accused the organisations of creating conditions for “changing the foundations of the constitutional order” and called their activities “undesirable”.
Russia’s list of extremist organisations currently consists of 33 including the Islamic State (IS) group, al Qaeda and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The groups are banned from operating in Russia and participating in their activities can result in lengthy prison terms.
Navalny, Russia’s best known opposition politician, is serving two-and-a-half years in a penal colony on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)