Defiant but cornered: Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny’s movement is on the ropes


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

Yet Alexei Navalny and his supporters continue to work on ways to remain a thorn in President Vladimir Putin’s side, even as one of his most important financial backers says the movement in its current form is finished and will take time to rebound.

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

Navalny’s supporters are set to be barred from that election via a court case, due to unfold later this month, and planned legislation unveiled on the parliamentary website on Tuesday that would ban “extremists” from running for office.

A court, meeting in secret, is considering a request from Moscow prosecutors to have Navalny’s network designated “extremist” for allegedly plotting a revolution, state media have reported. Russia’s financial monitoring agency has already added the network to a list on its website of groups involved in “terrorism and extremism”.

In response, Navalny’s movement has redoubled its call for sympathisers to vote for other opposition parties in September, however unpalatable they may consider them.

Dmitry Medvedev, the chairman of United Russia, has said the party, whose rating has been languishing at multi-year lows, needs to work hard to win another parliamentary majority. It won 343 seats of the 450-seat lower house of parliament or Duma in 2016, with the Communist party, ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic party and smaller groups making up the rest.

Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speech writer turned political analyst, said the Navalny camp’s smart voting strategy could mean an embarrassing defeat for the Kremlin’s favoured candidates in many cities.


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