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World

Russia seeks to outlaw Navalny movement

  • Navalny's probe into a Black Sea palace Russian tycoons allegedly built for Putin has racked up more than 116 million views on YouTube since its release in January. Putin denies the palace is his.
Published May 17, 2021
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MOSCOW: A Russian court is set to hear an "extremism" case against the political network of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday as Moscow seeks to outlaw the opposition to President Vladimir Putin.

The closed court hearing is part of a sweeping crackdown on Putin's most prominent critic and his supporters after Navalny barely survived a poisoning with the Novichok nerve agent last summer.

As part of the effort -- which comes a few months before parliamentary elections -- the lower house is set on Tuesday to begin debating a bill banning members of "extremist" organisations from being elected lawmakers.

Prosecutors in April requested that Navalny's regional network and his Anti-Corruption Foundation be designated "extremist" organisations, accusing them of plotting to stage a Western-backed uprising in Russia.

Such a court ruling would put Navalny and his supporters and financial backers on par with members of the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda and threaten them with long prison sentences.

"The opposition will be crushed," Abbas Gallyamov, an independent political analyst and former Kremlin speechwriter, told AFP, warning that the official ban on dissent would eventually backfire.

"By destroying the opposition, they are destroying their own legitimacy," Gallyamov said, referring to Russian authorities.

Navalny emerged as a top leader of Russia's opposition movement a decade ago, leading huge anti-Kremlin rallies sparked by claims of electoral fraud in 2011.

Established in 2011, the Anti-Corruption Foundation has published numerous investigations into the lavish lifestyles of Russia's elite.

Navalny's probe into a Black Sea palace Russian tycoons allegedly built for Putin has racked up more than 116 million views on YouTube since its release in January. Putin denies the palace is his.

Even though Navalny was not allowed to run against Putin in a presidential election in 2018, authorities had for years tolerated his political movement, which relies on donations from supporters.

But analysts say the Kremlin is willing to take no chances ahead of parliamentary elections in September as public fatigue is growing with Putin's two-decade rule and the coronavirus pandemic exacerbates economic woes.

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