Police in Moscow have detained two former members of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s team and extended the house arrest of his spokeswoman as a state pressure campaign against civil society groups continues.
With opinion polls indicating waning support for the Kremlin-backed ruling United Russia party, the authorities have ramped up pressure on dissent ahead of the September elections.
Lawyer Aleksandr Salamov said on July 21 that Andrei Akhmedulov and Sofia Kapinosova were detained in a move that may be linked to a fraud probe launched against Navalny.
Also on July 21, a Russian court ordered Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, to be held under house arrest pending trial until January next year, her lawyer and allies said.
Yarmysh, 31, has been under house arrest since February, accused of breaching COVID-19 safety regulations at what the authorities said was an unauthorized protest in support of Navalny, a charge she says is politically motivated.
She has been Navalny’s spokesperson since 2014.
“They’ve extended her house arrest for six months! Until January 6, 2022,” Veronika Polyakova, Yarmysh’s lawyer, wrote on Twitter after the court decision.
In the same case, the house arrests of two other Navalny associates — a former coordinator of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, Oleg Stepanov, and municipal deputy Dmitry Baranovsky — were also extended by the court for three months.
In December, the Investigative Committee said a criminal case had been launched against Navalny on suspicion that he and his associates misused some $4.8 million donated to his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) by donors and supporters.
In late June, a former producer of the Navalny Live YouTube channel, Aleksei Yakovlev, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and taken to the Investigative Committee for questioning as a witness in an unnamed fraud case widely believed to be the one against Navalny.
On June 29, Russia announced that it had placed Ivan Zhdanov, the former director of the FBK who currently resides in Lithuania, on an international wanted list and shared the details of his case with Interpol.
The FBK has relentlessly targeted senior government officials over the past decade with widely watched videos detailing corruption allegations that were distributed via the Navalny Live channel.
Navalny’s political network has been instrumental in implementing a “smart voting” strategy — a project designed to promote candidates most likely to defeat Kremlin-linked figures.
A Moscow City Court ruling to declare the FBK and other groups related to Navalny as extremist has prevented those associated with Navalny and his network of regional offices across Russia from seeking public office.
The ruling also carries possible lengthy prison terms for activists who have worked with the organizations.