Russia takes action against Alexei Navalny: work for his team is banned

Lawyers carried green plastic bags Alexey Navalny Files from the Moscow City Court – ten kilograms, and that was only part of it. Only the documents were released by the authorities. Another four and a half volumes contain information and confidential information that can only be viewed in court, not copied or photographed, declared Ivan Pavlov, attorney and head of the civil rights organization “Komanda 29”.

The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office accuses Navalny’s organizations of “extremism” of everything. After the Kremlin critic and opposition politician imprisoned himself for years, his offices and institutions were taken over by the authorities. The Public Prosecutor speaks of a “destabilization of the socio-political and social situation,” carried out “under the guise of liberal slogans,” from a constitutional overthrow through a “color revolution”. How the authority justifies these allegations is not yet known.

Alexei Navalny’s organizations will be tried without an audience, behind closed doors. The process allegedly contains state secrets.

Prohibition of work for regional offices

For the first time, the lawyers had access to the investigation files on Monday, and knew little about what’s new. In the secret part of the documents they find the facts of the crackdown against Navalny and his supporters: who was arrested and convicted, when and how – nothing that was not really known.

The prosecutor’s office created the first facts before the actual trial began: they had already banned the Navalny offices from operating. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has also applied to the court for an immediate ban on the activities of Nawalni Enterprises.

Nualnase structure

It is a strange hybrid that Navalny and his followers have created over the years: It consists of two pillars, an institution and more than 40 regional offices:

  • With these so-called Rods Navalny Halpe hat Russia Excessive when he wanted to run in the 2018 presidential elections. They are, so to speak, the structure of his party, even if he has never been allowed to register his party. Regional offices are points of contact for backers, and their uniform furnishings are actually reminiscent of party branches: inexpensive office furniture, bean bags, and turquoise walls. A separate online store sells funny Navalny accessories: passport covers with the inscription “Reject the certificate” for 790 rubles, and T-shirts with the inscription “Freedom for Navalny” for 1,750 rubles.

  • The Anti-Corruption Foundation – FBK in short in Russian – Founded Navalny in 2011. It makes a name for itself with entertaining professionally searched videos in which Navalny targets corrupt officials – and most recently even the Kremlin president Vladimir Putin Self-attack. The YouTube movie “A Palace for Putin” Mysterious luxury residence on the Black Sea has been seen more than 116 million times.

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From the outside, it is not always possible to see the boundaries between an organization and ’employees’. The headquarters of the Foundation and the staff headquarters are located at the same address in Moscow, which is a modern office center in the southeast of the city.

Years of persecution – and now the extremism club

So far, Navalny’s hulls have withstood many powerful blows – but without ban:

  • Among other things, one was forced Defamation lawsuit From the circle of businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin Navalny, pro-Kremlin, to formally dissolve the FBK and convert it into a new legal entity (“Foundation for the Defense of Civil Rights”). Ostensibly, she continued to be seen as FBK.

  • The Foundation was established in 2019 by the Ministry of Justice in Prof. Register for “foreign agents” registered.

  • Hardest hit by far, however, was Criminal proceedings related to alleged money laundering. In the summer of 2019, employees’ apartments were searched across the country, computers confiscated, and accounts banned.

The Russian leadership is now proceeding even further by accusing it of extremism. Therefore, the Nawalni team and its institutions no longer have the opportunity to legally continue their work as before.

If the organization and its affiliates are classified as “extremist,” which is what all members of the opposition group assume, then this will have far-reaching consequences: any activity and any interference in it will be illegal – even the donations that the organizations depend on. Supporters of the Kremlin will be classified as criminals.

Many believe this is just the beginning before the general election in the fall. “Soon, all members of the opposition will be declared, all of us enemies of the people,” said a 40-year-old woman who participated in the Navalny protests in Moscow on Wednesday – and expressed the opinion of many around her. Times in Russia were darker and darker.

The basis of the current action against Navalny’s organization has been Russia’s anti-extremism legislation since 2002. It explains “extremist activity” on a very broad scale, including, for example, “inciting social hostility” or “spreading religious exclusivity”.

To date, the law has been applied to extreme nationalists and Islamists, but also to moderate and non-violent organizations:

  • So they became Jehovah’s Witnesses Classified as “extremist” in Russia since 2017; According to the religious sect, there are currently 61 individuals in captivity and 33 others under house arrest.

  • The “National Bolshevik Party”, opposed to the late left nationalist Eduard Limonov, was banned as an extremist early in 2007, and was reestablished as “The Other Russia” and since then has had an ambiguous existence.

The first offices are already closed

Extremism researcher Alexander Verkhovsky warns that reorganizing his organizations will not help Navalny and his colleagues. New activities can be classified by the authorities as a “continuation” of the activities of a banned organization. “Ultimately, it all depends on the risks the trailers will be willing to take.”

They have already responded: employees in Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk announced on Monday that they would immediately close their offices, and more will follow. An employee told SPIEGEL that there was simply no longer any legal way to continue working.

“It’s foolish to get into a battle that can’t be won.” Sergey Bogko, the head of Navalny’s team in Novosibirsk, Siberia, wrote on Facebook: “We have to protect people. He still has a job as a city councilor, which is what he now wants to focus on. Plus, A tactical withdrawal is a good way to regroup, Bogco added.

Others do not seem very optimistic: they have withdrawn, in hiding, and a part of them is outside – for fear of arrest. It is not likely that all former employees will be prepared to continue working for the Nawalni Foundation to fight corruption from abroad. The greatest thing is the risk that they will no longer be able to return to their native Russia, where arrests and trials may be threatened.

Lawyers now have three days to review the files – the next meeting is already scheduled for Thursday. Navalny’s supporters believe the court will rule very soon.

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