Alexei Navalny–Linked Websites Restricted on Russian Internet by Governmental Order

Dozens of websites with connections to imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny have been restricted online in Russia by authorities, Navalny's team said Monday.

Navalny's own website was included, in addition to dozens of other sites run by his close allies. Last month, Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and its network of about 40 regional offices were outlawed for being extremist groups.

Other websites unavailable Monday were those of top Navalny strategist Leonid Volkov and longtime ally Lyubov Sobol; Navalny's foundation and its network; the Alliance of Doctors union; which is backed by Navalny; and a page calling for Navalny's freedom. "They] have decided to completely wipe us out of the Internet," Navalny's associate Maria Pevchikh tweeted.

Russia's state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said the restrictions were ordered by the Russian prosecutor general's office. The ban is the Russian government's latest move to increase pressure on opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Navalny protests
Dozens of websites linked to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny were reportedly blocked this week in Russia. Above, activists in Moscow attend an unsanctioned protest rally in support of Navalny on April 21 in front of the Kremlin. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The elections are widely seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin's efforts to cement his rule before the 2024 presidential election.

The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.

Navalny, who is Putin's most ardent political foe, was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin—an accusation that Russian officials reject.

In February, Navalny was ordered to serve two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

His arrest and jailing sparked a wave of mass protests across Russia's 11 time zones, in what appeared to be a major challenge for the Kremlin. The authorities responded with mass arrests of demonstrators and the criminal prosecutions of Navalny's closest associates.

The politician's Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which was founded 10 years ago and authored dozens of colorful and widely watched videos exposing alleged corruption, was labeled as an extremist group along with the network of regional offices Navalny has relied on to organize protests. Both the foundation and the offices were barred from operating.

Navalny's team pointed out Monday that the website of the Smart Voting strategy—a project to support the candidates most likely to defeat those from the Kremlin's dominant United Russia party in various elections—remained available.

Strategist Volkov suggested that the authorities might block it "closer to the election" in September, in which Navalny's team plans to deploy the Smart Voting project.

Free Navalny Protests Germany
A protester holds a banner reading "Free Navalny" in front of Berlin's Federal Chancellery as some 2,500 Alexei Navalny supporters march to demand his release from prison on January 23. Omer Messinger/Getty Images