Russian state watchdog adds Navalny network to terrorism database

Russia’s state financial watchdog has added Alexei Navalny’s network of regional headquarters to a terrorism watchlist as the Kremlin appears poised to outlaw the opposition leader’s nationwide political movement.

“Navalny headquarters” appeared on Friday on a searchable database of terrorist and extremist groups published by the state watchdog Rosfinmonitoring, which allows the government to close its bank accounts.

Separately, a Russian court may soon pronounce that the political offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation are extremist organisations, threatening his staff, supporters, and even crowdfunding donors with jail terms.

A top adviser, Leonid Volkov, earlier this week announced that he would be disbanding the regional headquarters in order to protect the staff and the supporters who worked there.

Russia’s crackdown on the opposition has picked up speed since Navalny’s arrest in January, with the Kremlin targeting his supporters, journalists covering protests in his support, and even lawyers who are involved in the case. Fearing arrest, many of Navalny’s top aides have fled the country.

Ivan Pavlov, a prominent lawyer representing Navalny’s team in the case, was arrested on Friday for allegedly divulging information about a preliminary investigation. He told journalists it was related to his defence of Ivan Safronov, a former Russian journalist who has been accused of spying for Nato. A journalist for Meduza has said she was choked by law enforcement officers during Pavlov’s detention.

The “extremism” designation has traditionally been reserved for violent groups like al-Qaida and neo-Nazi hate groups but has increasingly been applied to non-violent religious organisations, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in recent years. Members of the religious group have been targeted with house raids, surveillance, mass trials, and other heavy-handed police tactics.

The entry for Navalny’s organisation on Rosfinmonitoring is sandwiched between two hate groups: a skinhead organisation from the Russian city of Tula, and a neo-Nazi group from Russia’s far east that launched an attack on a local FSB office. Other entries include the Taliban, Islamic State, and the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, now renamed Aleph.

Navalny appeared gaunt during a court hearing on Thursday, his first public appearance since ending a 24-day hunger strike to protest for access to better medical care in his prison in Russia’s Vladimir region. He is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on embezzlement charges from 2014. He was jailed in January after returning from Germany, where he had been recuperating from a poisoning attack that he has blamed on the Russian government.

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