Photo: Atle Staalesen

Navalny's regional offices close as "the darkest of times" is coming to Russia

The regional offices of the Russian opposition leader are forced to close as the Russian General Prosecutor presses extremism charges against the organization.
April 27, 2021

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Like her colleagues across the country, Violetta Grudina in Murmansk now has to shut the doors to her regional office. The office that since July 2017 has promoted the interests of Aleksei Navalny in the north Russian region falls victim to the latest wave of crackdown from Russian authorities.

 

Violetta Grudina has headed the local Navalny office in Murmansk since it opened in 2017. Photo: Atle Staalesen

 

On the 16th April, the Russian General Prosecutor officially filed an extremism case against the organization to the Moscow City Court. That means that Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, as well as all regional offices, will have to shut down.

And the closure is likely to be permanent. The Moscow City Court is expected to to rule against the organization and its anti-corruption fighters and campaigners.

Consequences will be dramatic.

In a statement, the Anti-Corruption Foundation says the label as “extremist organization” will make it extraordinarily hard for its members and supporters.

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“It will open the way for hundreds of criminal cases, all or our colleagues will be under pressure […] and in the worst case, even volunteers, the supporters and the ones who hand out leaflets and participate in our activities will be charged,” the organization says.

Navalny now says “the darkest of times” is coming to Russia.

“The darkest of times for free thinking people and civil society in Russia is coming. Actually, the Kremlin has just demanded that everyone that does not consent are to be declared extremist.”

Murmansk has had one of the most active regional offices of Navalny since it opened in July 2017. Its leader Violetta Grudina has ardently campaigned in the city, the world’s biggest north of the Arctic Circle, and a solid group of supporters have taken part in local rallies and events.

Ever since the office opened, Grudina and her colleagues have faced severe harassment from law enforcement authorities. She has stood trial in several cases and gotten several hundred thousand rubles in fines.

On the 21st of April, a big number of people gathered in the central streets of Murmansk in protest against the arrest of Aleksei Navalny and his treatment in prison. During the protest, Grudina was again detained by police.

 

A big number of people participated in the Navalny support rally in Murmansk on 21st of April

 

When she was released and made it back home someone had stuck a shooting target on her postbox. It was only the latest sign of intimidation.

Just few days earlier, someone had broken into her office and painted swastikas on the walls. The same people had also poured some kind of foam in front of her office door. Her postbox had been stuffed with leaflets that warn against her candidacy.

“In our quiet northern town has come a group of bandits that seek to bring our kids into homosexuality and other indecencies,” the leaflet reads.

“Lets together protect this city against this filth,” the unknown sender wrote.

 

 

Someone broke into the office, destroyed equipment and painted swastikas on the walls of the Navalny office in Murmansk

 

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