The United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union strongly criticised the decision of a Russian judge to classify the organisation of opposition leader Aleksey Navalny as ‘extremistic’. Navalny himself, who is imprisoned in a prison camp, has indicated in a post on Instagram that he wants to continue his fight against the Kremlin.
A court in Moscow declared Navalny‘s organization FBK banned last night. This means that members of the movement will no longer be able to participate in the parliamentary elections held in Russia in September. Previously, the opposition movement had already been prevented from working in many other ways, but now it has been legally aligned with terrorist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda.
The European Union calls it the most serious attempt so far to suppress the political opposition in Russia. A declaration by the 27 Member States refers to the “systematic curtailment of human rights and freedoms protected by the Russian Constitution”.
The US Department of State issued a strong condemnation earlier in a statement. It emphasises that the decision of the Russian court fits in with a pattern in which “action is increasing against the political opposition, civil society and the independent media”.
According to the US, party workers, volunteers and supporters across Russia are now at risk of being prosecuted and imprisoned for defending their rights. “One of the few remaining political opposition movements has been criminalised.”
The declaration also calls for “the immediate and unconditional release of Navalny”. The Americans point out that it is not the first time that movements perceived by the Kremlin as a threat are described as extremist. In 2017, this happened with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
demissionary minister Kaag also responds with concern to the ruling of the Moscow court. It speaks of an ‘unfounded verdiction’, which can have major consequences for the opposition and others who are fighting against corruption.
The ruling of the judge in Moscow puts even more pressure on the relationship between Russia and the United States, just as President Biden has embarked on his first major foreign journey. On Wednesday, Biden is speaking in Switzerland with President Putin. It is expected that he will then raise the issue of banning Navalny‘s organization.
The United Kingdom is taking an even brighter tone against Russia than the US. Foreign Minister Raab called the decree “perverted” and “a kafkaesque attack on those who stand up against corruption and for open societies”
He also stressed that it fits in a pattern to silence the political opposition in Russia. Raab also asked for the immediate release of Navalny and of protesters and journalists who were recently arrested. ‘Russia fails as a member of the international community‘.
Navalny himself responded through his team with a statement on Instagram. In it he announced, despite the ban on his movement, that he would continue the fight. He called on his supporters to continue to support him. “We‘re evolving. Let’s adapt.”
He announced that he would continue to fight for his ideas. “This is our country and we have no other. Please stay with us. Follow what we do and support us. We really need that support.”
Furthermore, Navalny lashed out to justice. He called the prosecutor in the trial corrupt. “He steals, takes bribes and invests his money in foreign villas and hotels. He protects the right of Putin and his officials to live like this. They plunder the land and the people for the sake of their luxury lives.”
Furthermore, Navalny called on his supporters to join his smart voting system. The aim is to get as many opponents of United Russia, the Putin Party, elected by strategically voting in elections.
No later than 19 September this year, a new Duma, as the parliament is called, must be elected in Russia. In the previous elections, in 2016, United Russia won about three-quarters of the vote.
CCEIT correspondent Iris de Graaf spoke with NamursCCEIT at 3 with the young Russian opposition. Below you can see a conversation with a boy who wears an anklet and was grounded: