By Ibrahim Dagher
MOSCOW––In the midst of an ongoing political controversy between outspoken critic Alexei Navalny and the current government, led by Vladmir Putin, Russian authorities have called for the immediate halt and silencing of Navalny’s political groups, as well as the designation of such groups as ‘extremist groups’ detrimental to the Russian constitutional order.
These moves have silenced the harsh Putin critic and effectively outlawed any political movements or headquarters associated with Navalny and his opposition to Putin. These legal actions come as a sharp escalation in the tensions between Russian President Vladmir Putin and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.
Navalny has fought the Kremlin for multiple decades, calling for the unseating of President Putin and actively promoting street protests against the government. After multiple Kremlin-attempted assassinations of Alexei, as well as a lengthy prison sentence, Navalny has become Putin’s most aggressive and consistent critic.
His most powerful tool has been social media, with his headquarters and political support groups garnering millions of views on anti-corruption and anti-Putin propaganda. Navalny has also sparked multiple nationwide protests, most recently against the March 18 presidential election, where Putin had barred Navalny from running for office. The protest spread to over 125 Russian cities with more than 200,000 people in attendance.
Indeed, Navalny’s presence has been felt by the Kremlin, and it has even created legislative change. The Russian lawyer has been able to pass multiple legislative restrictions against corruption, as well as furthered public access to the financial documents of all politicians. Dubbed ‘the Navalny effect,’ Russian support for the critic has only increased in recent years.
Moscow prosecutors are also calling for a court order to liquidate and prohibit the activities of the Anti-Corruption Fund––Navalny’s largest support group. Being mostly led by young political volunteers, the organization has created increased opposition to the government, with college students chanting ‘Russia without Putin’ on multiple campuses throughout the country.
A report by Foreign Policy found that the Anti-Corruption Fund’s anti-government marches are at an all-time high since post-Soviet Russia. Prosecutors are utilizing the premise that the fund has now legally been designated as an ‘extremist group’ to justify total shutdown of their activities. In many ways, these latest moves by Putin mark a shift toward increased authoritarian means of shutting down political opposition in Russia.
After a Russian court ruled that the organization would no longer be permitted to post content on the Internet, participate in elections, or even make financial deposits, Ivan Zhdanov, the Anti-Corruption Fund’s director, took to Twitter to remark that, “They [the Kremlin] have decided to steamroll the FBK and the campaign headquarters…we won’t surrender.” Further, multiple top aides to Navalny, mostly from the Anti-Corruption Fund, have had to either flee the country or be placed under arrest.
Moscow’s moves to silence the political opposition regarding Navalny have not gone unnoticed around the world. The Biden administration recently communicated to Russian authorities that further action against Navalny could be met with severe consequences. The United States had already sanctioned seven members of the Russian government last month over news about a poisoning attempt against Navalny.
Now with human rights concerns growing as Russian leaders refuse to provide Navalny with proper medical care in his prison sentence, these new legal moves by Putin could serve as a tipping point for the United States.
Ibrahim Dagher is a first-year Philosophy major and Political Science minor at UC Davis from the Central Valley. His interests include writing professional analytic philosophy and engaging in public speaking events.