Russia jails an associate of imprisoned Kremlin foe Navalny as crackdown on dissent continues

A number of Navalny associates have faced extremism-related charges. His supporters see it as a deliberate Kremlin strategy to silence its most ardent opponent

Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow. February 2, 2021.HANDOUT (AFP)

A court in the Siberian city of Tomsk on Monday jailed an associate of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny pending trial on extremism charges, according to an ally, part of an unrelenting crackdown on Russian political activists, independent journalists and rights workers.

Ksenia Fadeyeva, who used to run Navalny’s office in Tomsk and had a seat in a local legislature, was placed in pre-trial detention several months after her trial began.

According to her ally Andrei Fateyev, who reported the development on his Telegram channel, Fadeyeva was placed under house arrest three weeks ago over an alleged violation of restrictions imposed on her earlier. The prosecutor later contested that ruling and demanded she be put in custody, a move the judge supported, Fateyev said.

The activist has been charged with running an extremist group and promoting “activities of an organization that infringes on people’s rights.”

Fateyev argued that Fadeyeva was being punished by the authorities “for legal and open political activity, for fighting against corruption, for demanding alternation of power.”

A number of Navalny associates have faced extremism-related charges after the politician’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of regional offices were outlawed in 2021 as extremist groups, a move that exposed virtually anyone affiliated with them to prosecution.

Earlier this year, Navalny himself was convicted on extremism charges and sentenced to 19 years in prison. It was his fifth criminal conviction and his third and longest prison term — all of which his supporters see as a deliberate Kremlin strategy to silence its most ardent opponent.

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he was recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. He has been behind bars ever since, and his close allies left Russia under pressure from the authorities following mass protests that rocked the country after the politician’s arrest. The Kremlin has denied it was involved in Navalny’s poisoning.

Many people working in his regional offices also left the country, but some stayed — and were arrested. Liliya Chanysheva, who ran Navalny’s office in the central city of Ufa, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison on extremism charges in June. Daniel Kholodny, former technical director of Navalny’s YouTube channel, received an eight-year prison term in August after standing trial with Navalny.

Fadeyeva in Tomsk faces up to 12 years, if convicted. “Organizations linked to Alexei Navalny are believed to be staunch enemies of the authorities and have become the subject of large-scare repressions,” Natalia Zvyagina, Amnesty International’s Russia director, said in January.

Navalny, who is serving time in a penal colony east of Moscow, has faced various hardships, from repeated stints in a tiny solitary “punishment cell” to being deprived of pen and paper.

On Monday, his team reported that prison censors stopped giving him letters from his wife, Yulia. It published a photo of a handwritten letter to her from Navalny in which he says that one of her letters was “seized by the censors, as it contains information about initiating, planning or organizing a crime.”

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