Alexei Navalny's Group Awaiting Ruling That Could Ban Public Events, Using Banks

Russian authorities ordered the offices of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny to suspend all activities pending a court ruling on whether to ban them as an extremist group, the Associated Press reported.

The Moscow prosecutor's office also asked courts to ban the Foundation for Fighting Corruption from spreading information in the media, taking part in elections, and using banks or organizing public events, according to Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer representing Navalny's team. The ruling on the motion is expected later on Monday.

According to human rights advocates, the injunction would outlaw the group's activities and expose members and supporters to prison terms.

Navalny's allies have rejected the accusations and insisted they are politically motivated. "They're just screaming here: We're scared of your activities, we're scared of your protests," tweeted Ivan Zhdanov, Navalny's top ally and director of the Foundation for Fighting Corruption.

The move is the latest part of a major crackdown on Navalny's organization by Russian authorities. Earlier this month, the prosecutor's office petitioned a court to label his Foundation for Fighting Corruption and network of regional offices as extremist groups.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia Navalny Protest
A man holds a poster that says "Freedom for Navalny" during an unauthorized rally against of jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on January 23, 2021 in Moscow, Russia. Russian authorities have ordered Navalny's group to suspend all activates after asking the Moscow court to label the group as extremists. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Navalny's foundation was opened 10 years ago and has since targeted high-ranking Russian officials with corruption exposes, many in the form of colorful and widely watched YouTube videos. One of the latest ones, alleging that a lavish palace on the Black Sea shore was built for President Vladimir Putin through an elaborate corruption scheme, has received 116 million views.

In addition to the foundation, in 2017 Navalny set up a vast network of regional offices in dozens of Russian regions when he was campaigning to run against Putin in the 2018 presidential election. He was eventually barred from running but kept the infrastructure in place.

Soon, these regional "headquarters" began their own investigations of graft by local officials and recruited activists, some of whom would later run for office. They were also instrumental in organizing mass nationwide rallies in Navalny's support in January and April.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin—accusations that Russian officials reject.

His arrest triggered nationwide protests that proved to be the biggest show of defiance in years but didn't prevent the authorities from promptly putting him on trial for the violating terms of a suspended sentence stemming from a 2014 embezzlement conviction widely believed to be politically motivated. Navalny was ordered to serve 2½ years in prison and last month was transferred to a penal colony east of Moscow, notorious for its harsh conditions.