MOSCOW — Associates of Aleksei A. Navalny have been pressured to disband the imprisoned Russian opposition chief’s community of 40 regional workplaces, one among his high aides mentioned Thursday, a step that pushes the home resistance to President Vladimir V. Putin additional underground.
The transfer was inevitable, Mr. Navalny’s aide, Leonid Volkov, said in a YouTube video, amid the Kremlin’s newest efforts to stifle political dissent. Moscow prosecutors on April 16 introduced that they’d search a court docket ruling to have Mr. Navalny’s motion declared an extremist group, and the court docket rapidly ordered Mr. Navalny’s teams to halt all public exercise, together with collaborating in political campaigns or referendums.
“Alas, we must be honest: It’s impossible to work under these conditions,” Mr. Volkov mentioned, warning that persevering with to function would expose Navalny supporters to felony prosecution. “We are officially disbanding the network of Navalny offices.”
Mr. Volkov predicted that whereas some workplaces would shut, others would remodel into unbiased political entities engaged in native politics. Either manner, the tip of Mr. Navalny’s nationwide community — from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Vladivostok on the Pacific — represented the tip of an period in Russian politics.
Started forward of Mr. Navalny’s failed try and problem Mr. Putin in the 2018 presidential election, the community of workplaces grew into probably the most formidable nationwide political infrastructure exterior of the present set of Kremlin-sanctioned opposition events. The workplaces agitated for a boycott of the 2018 election, in which Mr. Navalny was barred from operating, and labored on a coordinated effort to undermine pro-Kremlin candidates in native and regional elections that the Navalny workforce known as “smart voting.”
Emulating Mr. Navalny’s splashy corruption investigations printed on YouTube, the native workplaces highlighted what they described as theft and injustice carried out by native officers.
“Most will continue their work as self-sufficient, independent, regional civic and political movements, with strong people at the helm,” Mr. Volkov mentioned of the workplaces. “This means that everything we have done together up until now will not have been for naught.”
Prosecutors have for years harried Mr. Navalny and different opposition figures, however often below pretexts like violating guidelines on public gatherings, legal guidelines unrelated to their political actions or extra just lately rules in opposition to gatherings to restrict the unfold of the coronavirus.
That strategy offered a pretense of authorized acceptance for political dissent, which is assured below Russia’s 1993 post-Soviet Constitution. But this month’s effort to declare Mr. Navalny’s motion “extremist” has been distinct for instantly concentrating on the political exercise of Mr. Navalny’s nongovernmental organizations.
Hearings in the extremism case are persevering with this week — behind closed doorways, as a result of the proof has been deemed labeled. When they introduced the case this month, the prosecutors argued that Mr. Navalny’s teams have been seditious organizations disguised as a political motion. In a information launch, prosecutors mentioned that “under the guise of liberal slogans these organizations are busy forming conditions for destabilizing the social and sociopolitical situation.”
Mr. Navalny appeared by video hyperlink from jail at a distinct court docket listening to on Thursday — his enchantment of a February conviction for defamation of a World War II veteran that resulted in an $11,500 fantastic. It was his first public look since he began his starvation strike demanding higher medical therapy.
Mr. Navalny ended the hunger strike final week after 24 days, saying his calls for had been partially met. On the courtroom video screens Thursday, Mr. Navalny appeared gaunt, however as he talked over the decide’s makes an attempt to interrupt his closing assertion, his voice sounded practically as forceful because it was in his dramatic courtroom appearances earlier this year.
Mr. Putin, Mr. Navalny mentioned, was attempting to wrap himself in the glory of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II in order to justify his effort to remain in energy.
“Your king with no clothes has stolen the banner of victory and is trying to fashion it into a thong for himself,” Mr. Navalny mentioned, addressing the decide, in keeping with a recording of his speech printed by the BBC Russian Service. “All your authorities are occupiers and traitors.”