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Defiant, but the corner: Kremlin critic Navalny’s movement is on the ropes



He has been poisoned, imprisoned, and his close aides are either being prosecuted or have fled abroad. His anti-Kremlin opposition movement is likely to soon be banned as extremist.

Yet Alexei Navalny and his supporters continue to work on ways to remain a thorn in President Vladimir Putin̵

7;s side, even as one of his key economic supporters says the movement in its current form is complete and will take time to come back.

In the eyes of the Kremlin, the only half-meaningful political weapon left by the Navalny camp is its campaign for tactics, or what it calls a “smart” vote against the ruling United Russia party in a September parliamentary election, according to three people close to the Russians. authorities.

Navalny’s supporters are barred from this election through a trial set to unfold later this month and planned legislation unveiled on parliament’s website on Tuesday banning “extremists” from running for office.

A court that is secretly meeting is considering a request from Moscow prosecutors to have Navalny’s network designated as “extremist” for alleged planning of a revolution, state media have reported. Russia’s financial watchdog has already added the network to its list of groups involved in “terrorism and extremism”.

In response, Navalny’s movement has doubled its demand for sympathizers to vote for other opposition parties in September, no matter how uncomfortable they may view them.

Dmitry Medvedev, the chairman of the United Russia, has said that the party, whose rating has weakened by perennial downturns, must work hard to win another parliamentary majority. It won 343 seats in the 450-seat parliament or Duma in 2016, with the Communist Party, the ultra-nationalist Liberal Party and smaller groups making up the rest.

Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin spokesman who became a political analyst, said the Navalny camp’s clever voting strategy could mean an embarrassing defeat for the Kremlin’s favored candidates in many cities.

But another source close to the authorities, who refused to be named, said it would just be an exercise in shuffling the same package of Kremlin-controlled cards.

“The kind of parties and candidates that Navalny’s people will try to help are … in the Kremlin’s pocket,” the source said, pointing out that other parties had not threatened Putin’s seizure of power for more than two decades.

“Everything will be fine (for us).”

The Kremlin and Putin say Russia’s electoral system is competitive, that Navalny and his allies are part of a US-backed effort to destabilize Russia, and that the Russian leader, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999, remains most popular politician by far.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was considered “smart” to vote as a threat and influenced opposition parties that want to run for parliament.

A third source close to the Kremlin described the Navalny camp’s strategy as an annoying factor capable of causing political damage, but nothing that could seriously damage the status of the ruling party.

RUN UNDERGROUND

Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally, told supporters on Facebook on April 29 that the expected court decision meant it was no longer safe to run regional campaign headquarters, which are used to hold protests that have mostly been crushed by force. .

He announced that their official resolution was that some would close, but that others would try to do so on their own as independent structures by cutting ties.

If Navalny’s network is declared extremist, the law states that group organizers can be jailed for up to 10 years, activists can be held criminally liable, and anyone who makes donations can be jailed for up to eight years.

Studies conducted by his FBK anti-corruption fund, some of which have generated tens of thousands of YouTube views, continue to be produced outside Russia, with the latest on the state media organization RT being released on April 28.

Prosecutors will also designate FBK as an extremist.

Navalny’s activities are run by crowdfunding, and he has several large donors, including Boris Zimin, who last year paid for Navalny’s evacuation to Germany from Russia after he was poisoned by what doctors said was a nerve agent.

Zimin told Reuters he did not know if he would still donate funds.

“The state has sufficient measures available to stop any activity. So without a doubt, the authorities will stop FBK in its current ‘version’,” he said. “But I trust this is not the end of the day.”

Yevgeny Chichvarkin, a London-based Putin critic who has previously donated, was more ambiguous.

“I will definitely give bitcoin,” he told Reuters.

Sending money in bitcoin or via platforms like PayPal or YouTube makes payments harder to track.

Still, bitcoin donations to Navalny’s allies appear to have fallen over the past two months, according to websites describing transactions.

In February, donations to bitcoin wallets for Navalny’s campaign headquarters totaled $ 34,686. In March the figure was $ 9,880 and in April $ 24,600. Bitcoin is very volatile and these amounts were based on the exchange rate on the day the money was transferred.

‘NO LONGER A PROBLEM’

Volkov threw the latest legal step against Navalny’s movement as proof that the Kremlin was scared.

“You have no answer against smart idols,” he wrote on Twitter on May 4.

Volkov told Reuters he would comment on the movement’s prospects at a later date.

Navalny has a high profile in the West, which imposed sanctions on Moscow over his poisoning last year in what Western leaders said was a Russian-sponsored assassination attempt. Moscow denies any role.

Despite this, the other source close to the Kremlin said it no longer considers Navalny (44) a serious threat.

He would issue his 2-1 / 2-year sentence for violating probation, the source said. “For now he is no longer a problem.”

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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