MOSCOW (Axios): A Russian court on Monday approved a request by prosecutors to suspend all activities at the regional headquarters of Alexei Navalny’s political organization, pending a ruling on whether to label his networks as “extremist.”
Why it matters: It’s the latest and most sweeping attempt by the Russian state to crack down on the influence of the imprisoned opposition leader, who recently ended a three-week hunger strike after warnings from doctors that he could die within days.
The big picture: Navalny’s imprisonment on charges of violating his parole, which came after he spent months in Germany recovering from an attempted poisoning by Russia’s security services, has galvanized mass protests and international condemnation.
Between the lines: Amnesty International has said that an extremist designation for Navalny’s political and anti-corruption groups would represent “one of the most serious blows for the rights to freedom of expression and association in Russia’s post-Soviet history.”
It would put the networks on par with the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the eyes of the Russian authorities, according to the Washington Post.
Members could be arrested, and those who donate to the group or spread its videos — which expose the corruption of Russian politicians and have gained millions of views online — could be accused of supporting terrorism.
What to watch: Court proceedings begin on Monday, but evidence in the case has been kept hidden because it contains state secrets, prosecutors claim.
What they’re saying: “It reminds me of Soviet trials when someone was declared a spy or foreign agent and then there would be a secret closed trial,” Anti-Corruption Foundation director Ivan Zhdanov, who fled Russia earlier this year, told the Post. “Putin is trying to take Russia back into the Soviet past.”