Russian Lawmakers Give Final Approval To Law Barring Navalny Allies From Seeking Office
By RFE/RL's Russian Service May 26, 2021
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has approved the third and final reading of a bill that would ban supporters and members of "extremist" organizations from being elected to any post, a move making it virtually impossible for anyone connected to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny from gaining public office.
Under the draft bill approved on May 26, leaders and founders of organizations declared extremist or terrorist by Russian courts will be banned from running for elective posts for a period of five years.
Other members of employees of such organizations will face a three-year ban.
The legislation still requires the approval of parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, as well as President Vladimir Putin's signature.
The measure appears to be a thinly veiled attempt at neutralizing Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which Russian authorities are seeking to have declared extremist ahead of parliamentary elections in September.
"Vladimir Putin's regime aims to fully purge vocal critics from the civic space," Natalia Zviagina, the Moscow director for Amnesty International, said during the legislative process.
"The main target of this latest, particularly brazen attack is the movement led by Aleksei Navalny.... Having unjustly imprisoned its archfoe, the Kremlin is now targeting all those who had the nerve to support him," Zviagina said.
The FBK has already been declared a "foreign agent," a punitive designation under a separate law.
The law appears to be retroactively applicable since it only involves restricting a person's rights, legal analysts say.
The ruling United Russia party is facing polls showing its support at some of the lowest levels ever.
Navalny's regional headquarters have been instrumental in implementing a Smart Voting strategy -- a project designed to promote candidates who are most likely to defeat those from United Russia in various elections.
Navalny, Putin's most-vocal critic, is currently serving a prison sentence on embezzlement charges that he says were trumped up because of his political activity.
The 44-year-old has been in custody since January when he returned to Russia following weeks of medical treatment in Germany for a nerve-agent poisoning in August 2020 that he says was carried out by operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) at the behest of Putin. The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning.
Since his jailing, the Kremlin has stepped up its campaign against Navalny and his associates, many of whom have fled the country in fear of being arrested.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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