A Russian court has outlawed political organisations founded by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, branding them “extremist”.
The decision, delivered on Wednesday evening, comes in the midst of a ramped up effort from Vladimir Putin to crackdown on political dissent.
The ruling from the Moscow City Court will have serious implications for those associated with Navalny”s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and from his regional network.
Under the decision, which is effective immediately, associates of Navalny’s who had hoped to run for parliamentary seats in the upcoming 19 September election will be barred from seeking office.
‘Extremist’ label carries prison terms
With Navalny’s organisations branded “extremist”, the decision could also mean lengthy prison terms for people who have worked under them.
Those who have donated to the groups as well as those who have shared materials from the organisations could also be at risk of facing prison time.
Navalny was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he accused the Kremlin of orchestrating – a charge Russian officials have denied.
He was handed a 2.5-year prison term for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction.
Meanwhile, in April, the opposition leader already saw offices in a number of Russian regions shut down after prosecutors issued an injunction to halt their activities pending Wednesday’s ruling.
The opposition leader’s associates had vowed to continue their work, however.
Lawyers to appeal ruling
Wednesday’s court session ran for more than 12 hours and was held behind closed doors under the justification that classified materials would be discussed.
The judge also rejected a defense appeal that would have allowed Navalny to take part via video link from prison, while other motions would also dismissed by the defense.
Lawyers have said they plan to appeal the ruling.
Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades now, has sought to defend his title with the 2024 presidential election ahead.