Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny’s health deteriorates; Moscow prosecutors seek to designate Anti-Corruption Foundation as ‘extremist’

Week-ending 16 April 2021

This week Yulia Navalnaya said she was growing more concerned about the health of her husband Aleksei Navalny, who is on hunger strike, after visiting him in prison. Navalny’s personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, was fined over her attempt to see Navalny. Navalny himself said the authorities threatened to put him in a straitjacket and force feed him if he did not end his hunger strike. The Moscow prosecutor’s office announced it is seeking to designate Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and his regional political headquarters as “extremist groups”. Amnesty International condemned the move, saying the designation, if it happened, would be ‘one of the most serious blows for the rights to freedom of expression and association in Russia’s post-Soviet history.’


RFE/RL, 10 April 2021: Members of the German Bundestag have described the treatment of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny as “targeted torture” and demanded the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture review the conditions of his detention. The letter, posted on Facebook on April 10, called Navalny’s treatment “incompatible” with the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture, saying Russia is a party to the convention as a member of the Council of Europe. The letter is signed by Manuel Sarrazin, with Germany’s Green Party, and a bipartisan group of 11 other members of the Bundestag, the lower house in Germany’s parliament. It was made available on Sarrazin’s Facebook page in German and Russian.

RFE/RL12 April 2021: The coordinator of a team of Daghestani activists associated with imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny went incommunicado in the North Caucasus region on April 12, a day after he announced the inception of the group. Local activists in Daghestan’s capital, Makhachkala, on April 12, raised concerns about the whereabouts of Eduard Atayev, whose telephone had been switched off since April 11 when he officially announced Navalny’s team in the city.

RFE/RL, 13 April 2021: The wife of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says she is growing more concerned over his health as the toll of prison life and a hunger strike mounts. Yulia Navalnaya said in a post on Instagram that she visited the Kremlin critic on April 13 at the prison where he is serving 2 1/2 years for an embezzlement conviction widely considered as politically trumped-up. Navalnaya said the two spoke via telephone and could see each other through a glass barrier in what she called “the best date of my life.”

The Moscow Times, 13 April 2021: Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, said on Tuesday she was increasingly concerned for her hunger-striking husband’s health after visiting him at his penal colony outside Moscow. Navalny, who is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on old embezzlement charges, was jailed in February after returning to Russia from Germany where he was receiving treatment for a poisoning attack he says was orchestrated by the Kremlin. Russia’s most prominent opposition figure announced a hunger strike two weeks ago to demand adequate medical treatment, and his allies said this week that authorities had threatened to force feed him.

RFE/RL, 13 April 2021: Anastasia Vasilyeva, the personal doctor of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, has been fined over her attempt to see the ailing Kremlin critic last week at the prison he is being held in outside of Moscow. The Petushki district court in the Vladimir region late on April 12 ordered Vasilyeva, who is the chairwoman of the Alliance of Doctors union, to pay 180,000 rubles ($2,320), for what the court described as the “organization of a mass gathering near a penitentiary that led to obstacles for transport operations.” Vasilyeva’s lawyer, Mikhail Arsenyev, said the court ruling will be appealed.

RFE/RL, 13 April 2021: Savely Narizhny is a 15-year-old former high school student in the northwestern Russian city of Vologda. On the evening of January 23, he was stopped in the center of the city after attending an unsanctioned mass demonstration in support of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, who at the time was jailed and facing serious criminal charges. Narizhny wasn’t detained, but police confiscated his telephone. Three days later, police came for him at home. Narizhny admits that he wrote graffiti calling longtime authoritarian President Vladimir Putin a “thief” on the wall of the regional administration headquarters. A short time later, prosecutors categorized the act as “an action committed by a group of people and motivated by political, ideological, race-based, nationalist, or religious hatred or enmity.” If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison.

RFE/RL, 14 April 2021: Police in the Russian city of Krasnodar have detained several members of the local team of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for unclear reasons amid ongoing crackdown on the network of Navalny’s teams across the country. The coordinator of the team, Anastasia Panchenko, told RFE/RL that traffic police stopped a car transporting her and two colleagues as they were traveling to a location to shoot a documentary. Police took the activists to the Krasnodar city police department for what they called “a check.” When the activists said they would not go, the officers threatened them with a charge of disobeying a police order.

The Moscow Times, 15 April 2021: Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s close associate Lyubov Sobol was sentenced to a year of community service Thursday for visiting the apartment of an alleged security agent implicated in his poisoning. Sobol was detained in December when she appeared outside the home of alleged Federal Security Service (FSB) chemical weapons expert Konstantin Kudryavtsev. Navalny and the open-source investigative group Bellingcat said Kudryavtsev was part of an FSB squad tasked with his poisoning and cleaning up the crime scene last August.

RFE/RL, 15 April 2021: Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been handed a one-year suspended sentence of correctional labor for trespassing. According to Russian legislation, those handed such a sentence must pay the State Treasury the required amount if they are employed. If they are unemployed, they must work at jobs defined by the Federal Penitentiary Service during the term of their sentence.

The Guardian, 16 April 2021: The Moscow prosecutor’s office has announced that it will seek to designate Alexander Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and his regional political headquarters as “extremist groups”, moving to in effect liquidate the jailed opposition leader’s political organisation in Russia. It is the most sweeping assault yet on supporters of Navalny, and comes after his two-and-a-half-year sentence on embezzlement charges and the arrest of his top aides on various charges following large protests in January and February. In a statement released on Friday evening, the law enforcement body said it was seeking the designation usually reserved for violent organisations such as al-Qaida or Aum Shinrikyo, because it believed Navalny’s organisations were “creating conditions for changing the foundations of the constitutional order, including through the scenario of a ‘coloured revolution’”.

The Moscow Times:, 16 April 2021 A Moscow court has sentenced one of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s allies to two years in prison for two tweets critical of the Russian government, the Mediazona news website reported Thursday. Pavel Zelensky, a camera operator for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), was detained in January on charges of inciting extremism online. The accusations stem from anti-government tweets he posted after the self-immolation death of journalist Irina Slavina after police searches at her apartment in October.

RFE/RL, 16 April 2021: Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny said on April 16 that prison authorities have threatened to put him in a straitjacket to force-feed him unless he halts his hunger strike. Navalny, 44, announced a hunger strike at the end of last month in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to allow him to receive proper medical care for acute back and leg pain. In an Instagram post, Navalny said an official told him that blood tests showed his health was deteriorating and threatened to force-feed him if he continues his hunger strike. “And then she detailed the joys of force-feeding to me. Straitjacket and other pleasures,” the politician said, adding that he urged the officials not to do it, “pointing to a clause in the law.”

The Guardian, 16 April 2021: An investigation by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has revealed new details about another of Vladimir Putin’s alleged lavish residences, complete with stables, a golf course and an expansive spa complex that includes a cryo chamber. Using satellite and drone footage, company records, photographs and other data, investigators have released floor plans and some of the first photographs of an expanded residence near Valdai, which they said was the Russian president’s favourite and most secret. They claimed the residence was partly leased from one of Putin’s closest allies on taxpayer money. While some of the lakeside property is state-owned and designated for official use, a more lavish section with a mansion has been privately developed into what has been described as a playground for the health-conscious head of state. In particular, the investigation focuses on a 7,000 sq metre (75,000 sq ft) spa complex whose floor plans show a float pool, massage rooms, a swimming pool, and other amenities, such as an extreme-cold treatment cryotherapy chamber, that are rented from a company alleged to belong to one of Putin’s close friends.

Amnesty International, 17 April 2021: Responding to news that a Russian prosecutor has lodged a court request to declare Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and associated organizations as “extremist” and to consequently ban their activities, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: “This looming ban has far reaching consequences for Russian civil society. Tens of thousands of peaceful activists and the staff of Aleksei Navalny’s organizations are in grave danger – if their organizations are deemed “extremist” they will be at imminent risk of criminal prosecution.”

RFE/RL, 17 April 2021: Amnesty International has sharply criticized a request by Russian prosecutors to have the Anti-Corruption Foundation of imprisoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny banned as an “extremist” organization. “Tens of thousands of peaceful activists and the staff of Aleksei Navalny’s organizations are in grave danger,” Natalia Zviagina, head of Amnesty’s Moscow office, said in an April 17 statement. “If their organizations are deemed ‘extremist’ they will all be at imminent risk of criminal prosecution.” The Amnesty statement also decried Russia’s “long history of abusing ‘anti-extremism’ legislation and said that if the courts grant the prosecutors’ request on labeling Navalny’s organization “extremist,” “the result will likely be one of the most serious blows for the rights to freedom of expression and association in Russia’s post-Soviet history.”

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