EU slams ban on Kremlin critic's political groups

A worker painting over graffiti depicting jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny in St Petersburg, Russia, in April. The graffiti referred to him as "The hero of the new age". The ban could spell the end of his anti-corruption organisation and n
A worker painting over graffiti depicting jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny in St Petersburg, Russia, in April. The graffiti referred to him as "The hero of the new age". The ban could spell the end of his anti-corruption organisation and network of political offices that had bolstered his reach.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • The European Union denounced a Russian court ruling that branded as "extremist" the political organisations of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and barred them from working.

A court in Moscow on Wednesday branded the political organisations of Mr Navalny as "extremist" and barred them from working in Russia, a further blow to the embattled opposition ahead of parliamentary elections.

A statement from the Moscow City Court, distributed to journalists after a marathon 12-hour-long session held behind closed doors, said the judge's decision was binding with immediate effect.

"(The) ruling by a Moscow Court to label Mr Alexei Navalny's organisations as 'extremist groups' marks the most serious effort to date by the Russian government to suppress the independent political opposition and anti-corruption investigations," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the 27 member states yesterday.

The statement said the move was intended "to eliminate Mr Navalny's political networks' influence ahead of the State Duma elections in September, and beyond."

"It is an unfounded decision that confirms a negative pattern of a systematic crackdown on human rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Russian Constitution," it said.

The ruling could spell the end of Mr Navalny's anti-corruption organisation and his network of political offices that had bolstered his reach to regular Russians beyond Moscow.

The bloc repeated its calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Navalny following his "politically motivated" jailing.

The EU has slapped sanctions on 10 senior Russian officials over last year's poisoning of Mr Navalny with a nerve agent and his arrest and sentencing this year. Moscow hit back by imposing entry bans on a number of Europeans, including high-ranking EU officials.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2021, with the headline 'EU slams ban on Kremlin critic's political groups'. Subscribe