MOSCOW (AP) – A key ally of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Thursday that the network of politicians’ offices in Russia was being closed because the authorities wanted it and the Navalny Anti-Corruption Fund had been declared extremist.
The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit this month asking the regional offices to recognize Navalny’s anti-corruption organization as an extremist group, a label that would legalize their activities, expose members and supporters to a long prison term, a major challenge for Navalny.
Leonid Volkov, who heads the regional offices as Navalny’s chief strategist, said on Thursday that maintaining the network in its current state was “impossible” because of allegations of extremism, but that they would not help either.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to work in these conditions. “We are officially dismantling the network of Navalny headquarters,” Volkov said in a statement to Telegram.
Volkov’s statement comes amid Navalny’s harsh criticism of President Vladimir Putin and his crackdown on his organizations. The politician is currently in prison, և dozens of his assistants և supporters have been arrested, who have been targeted for law enforcement raids or prosecuted.
Earlier this week, the prosecutor’s office issued a decree obliging the offices to close before a court ruling, and a Moscow court imposed restrictions on the Anti-Corruption Fund.
The director of the foundation Ivan hd Danov said that despite the restrictions, the organization will continue to work.
Navalny set up a network of offices in dozens of districts as he campaigned against Putin in the 2018 presidential election. He was eventually barred from running, but kept the infrastructure in place.
The district “headquarters”, as the team called them, launched its own investigations into vaccinations by local officials recruited by activists, some of whom later ran for office. The offices also played a role in organizing nationwide rallies in support of Navalny this year.
In his statement, Volkov assured his supporters that Navalny’s team would not give up.
“The networks of Navalny’s headquarters no longer exist, but there are dozens of strong, tough regional politicians, thousands of his supporters, there are strong, independent political organizations that will work on investigations, elections, public campaigns, rallies. “You will help them, they will succeed,” Volkov said.
Navalny was arrested on his way back from Germany in January, where he was recovering for five months after being poisoned by a nerve agent he blamed on the Kremlin, a charge denied by Russian officials.
His arrest sparked protests across Russia that proved to be the largest demonstration in recent years. But they did not prevent the authorities from prosecuting Navalny in court for violating the terms of his probation while he was in Germany.
The sentence was based on a conviction for the 2014 robbery, which Navalny described as politically motivated. He was sentenced to two years in prison and last month transferred to a penitentiary known for its harsh conditions.
Some of his key allies were slapped on criminal charges, placed under house arrest, and dozens of his colleagues were detained in the provinces and targeted.