Heavy Penalty Threat: Navalny Dissolves Local Agency of Anti-Corruption Foundation

Leonid Volkov, a supportive collaborator of Russian opposition figure Navalny who is in prison, said today that Navalny decided to disband the anti-corruption offices of the Anti-Corruption Foundation in various locations in order to avoid arrests and heavy prison sentences for his many anti-corruption supporters. Russian authorities have just added Navalny’s anti-corruption opposition group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, to a list of extremist organizations and threatened heavy prison sentences. But anti-corruption supporters will continue their independent protests.

Navalny himself appeared at a judicial hearing today, where he was shown on video, with his head shaved and wearing a prison uniform. According to Navalny, “I was taken to the shower yesterday (…) , there was a mirror and I looked at myself: I was just a horrible skeleton.” He said this in a recording broadcast by the independent TV channel Dojd. This is Navalny’s first public appearance since he ended his hunger strike. Navalny has started eating and is still losing weight instead of gaining. Navalny was in court for a hearing on defamation charges against him. A Russian World War II hero has accused Navalny of slander.

Navalny’s 2011 anti-corruption protest group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been classified by authorities as a militant organization, and those involved are likely to be convicted and receive heavy sentences. The Russian prosecutor’s office asked a Russian court in mid-April to open a case against Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation.

This week, a Moscow court has banned the anti-corruption foundation from carrying out any activities, including posting content on the Internet, organizing protests and participating in elections, according to AFP. If the Anti-Corruption Foundation is declared “extremist,” Alexei Navalny’s organization and its supporters will be added to a list of about 30 other organizations banned in Russia, such as the terrorist jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Navalny has been hit for exposing corruption in the authorities. The Anti-Corruption Foundation is also known for its investigations condemning corruption in Russian power circles. The most prestigious action by the Anti-Corruption Foundation was accusing President Vladimir Putin of building a palace on the Black Sea, a revelation that has been viewed 116 million times on YouTube.

Thirty-seven offices of Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation across Russia also conducted their own investigations to expose corruption of all kinds and organized an opposition-backed “Smart Vote” campaign, which included encouraging support for the candidate most likely to defeat the Kremlin. The campaign includes encouraging support for the candidate most likely to defeat the current president, Vladimir Putin, regardless of his political status.

According to AFP, Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, has also naturally become a hated enemy of the Kremlin. Navalny has been sentenced to prison since March in a long-running former fraud case, a lawsuit that has been criticized by many NGOs and Western countries as a political verdict.

Facing deteriorating health, Navalny ended a 24-day hunger strike last week, a protest against the conditions of his detention.