MOSCOW – A Moscow court on Tuesday restricted the activities of an organization founded by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pending a decision on whether it and his offices across Russia should be outlawed as extremist groups.
The ruling on the Foundation for Fighting Corruption by the Moscow City Court was another step in the sweeping crackdown on Navalny, his allies and his political infrastructure.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office had petitioned the court to label the foundation and Navalny's network of regional offices as extremist groups and effectively outlaw their activities. Such a move would expose members and supporters to lengthy prison terms.
If the court grants the request, it would be a crippling blow to the beleaguered team of Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic. Navalny has been behind bars since January, and many of his aides and associates were arrested or face criminal charges.
On Monday, the prosecutor's office issued an injunction ordering Navalny's offices in dozens of Russian regions to suspend their activities, after which they effectively shut down. Tuesday's court ruling on the foundation barred it from performing certain activities, and Navalny's allies argued it wouldn't affect the foundation's work.
Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer for the foundation, said it is no longer allowed to use the media or the internet to distribute content or to organize rallies and public events, participate in elections or use bank deposits.
Such restrictions won't disrupt the foundation's work, said director Ivan Zhdanov, arguing that most of the restrictions don't apply to the anti-corruption organization's activities.
“Some nonsense,” Zhdanov tweeted. “(These) aren't going to influence our work in any way.”