Russian authorities ordered all offices of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny closed Monday as a court reviews a request from state prosecutors to label his Anti-Corruption Foundation an “extremist” group.
Labeling the group “extremist” would give Russian authorities more freedom to arrest and freeze assets of those associated with Navalny – the most high-profile opponent of President Vladimir Putin.
Members of the group wrote on social media Monday that following the order, it will be too dangerous for them to continue working, but that they would continue to oppose Putin in a “personal” capacity.
"We all understand perfectly that there is no extremism in (our) work...The extremism allegation is being used purely as a pretext for political repression," Leonid Volkov, an associate of Navalny, said, according to the Reuters news agency.
State prosecutors have said the group threatens to undermine the stability of the country.
Navalny, a 44-year-old Kremlin critic, has been detained since January in a high security prison under conditions that may amount to torture, according to the United Nations.
Navalny was arrested immediately on his January 17 arrival in Moscow for alleged parole violations after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia.
Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said Navalny violated the probation terms of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money laundering conviction, which he denounced as politically motivated.
Navalny has accused Putin of ordering Russia’s security services to poison him, a charge the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
Several European laboratories have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the former Soviet Union.