EU condemns Russia's growing crackdown on democracy

EU condemns Russia’s growing crackdown on democracy as groups founded by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny are outlawed by Moscow

  • Groups set up by Navalny were outlawed and deemed extremist on Wednesday 
  • EU termed the ruling ‘most serious effort to date to suppress political opposition’
  • Added call for the immediate and unconditional release of Kremlin critic Navalny
  • Imprisoned for violating parole on an embezzlement case against him in March 

The EU has condemned a growing crackdown on democracy in Russia after groups founded by Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny were outlawed by Moscow on Wednesday night. 

A statement by all 27 EU governments said the move, which will see Navalny’s organisations labelled ‘extremist’, has no legal basis in Russia’s constitution. 

‘Yesterday’s ruling by a Moscow Court to label Mr Alexei Navalny’s organisations as “extremist groups” marks the most serious effort to date by the Russian Government to suppress the independent political opposition’, the statement said.

‘It is an unfounded decision that confirms a negative pattern of a systematic crackdown on human rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Russian constitution.’

A Russian court’s decision to outlaw groups linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny (pictured at a court hearing in February) has no legal basis in Russia’s constitution, the European Union said on Thursday

The statement added the decision would have ‘far-reaching consequences for the Russian civil society, opposition, and critical voices.’  

Like the United States, the EU has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to free Navalny and imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials.

The statement said the EU ‘repeats its call for Mr Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release as we consider his sentencing politically motivated and running counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations.’ 

It went on to note ‘Russian authorities are responsible for Mr Navalny’s safety and health in the penal colony’, warning the EU would ‘hold them to account’ for the Kremlin critic’s welfare.   

Navalny, jailed in March for parole violations related to an embezzlement case he says was trumped up, mounted a bold challenge to Putin via street protests and graft investigations which he had hoped would bring about a change of leadership.

Like the United States, the EU has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to free Navalny and imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials (pictured, EU commission President Ursula von der Leyen)

Wednesday’s ruling, the latest chapter in a long-running crackdown on Putin’s fiercest domestic opponent, delivers a blow to a vast political network that Navalny built to challenge the Russian leader’s grip on power.

The Moscow City Court’s ruling, effective immediately, prevents people associated with Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his sprawling regional network from seeking public office. 

Many of Navalny’s allies had hoped to run for parliamentary seats in the September 19 election.

The ruling sends a tough message one week before President Vladimir Putin holds a summit meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva.

The extremism label also carries lengthy prison terms for activists who have worked with the organisations, anyone who donated to them, and even those who simply shared the groups’ materials.

Wednesday’s ruling delivers a blow to a vast political network that Alexei Navalny built to challenge the Russian leader’s grip on power (pictured, lawyers of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation speak outside Moscow City Court on Wednesday)

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