Russian Media Regulator Blocks Navalny’s Website

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is seen on a screen via a videolink during a court hearing in Moscow on June 22.  

Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has blocked the website of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny in a widening crackdown by authorities against media and civil organizations ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) tweeted on July 26 that, in addition to blocking the website, authorities may also block the website of the Smart Voting system outlined by Navalny’s team ahead of the September 19 vote. The system is aimed at defeating candidates of the Kremlin-backed ruling United Russia party.

Roskomnadzor confirmed the move in a statement, saying it acted upon a request by the Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the regulator, the decision was made because the site contained what it decided were "calls for mass disorder, the implementation of extremist activities, and the participation in mass (public) events held in violation of established regulations."

"The blocking of our resources is direct evidence of the existence of state censorship. Instead of fighting corruption, the state is fighting those who conduct anti-corruption investigations. It’s time to change this power," Navalny’s team said on Twitter in response to the news.

With opinion polls indicating waning support for United Russia, authorities have ramped up pressure on dissent ahead of the elections.

Navalny’s 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.

It has also been instrumental in implementing the Smart Voting strategy — a project designed to promote candidates most likely to defeat Kremlin-linked figures.

A Moscow City Court last month ruled in favor of a prosecutor’s motion to declare the FBK and other groups related to Navalny as extremist. The move has prevented those associated with Navalny and his network of regional offices across Russia from seeking public office. It also carries possible lengthy prison terms for activists who have worked with the organizations, a move seen by critics as a thinly veiled attempt to scare off potential opposition candidates.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal domestic critic, is serving a 2-1/2 year jail sentence for parole violations he says were trumped up. His jailing has strained Russia’s relations with the West, which has demanded that he be freed and criticized the extremism ruling.

Navalny associate Ruslan Shaveddinov accused Putin of being behind the move to block the website.

"Putin, with Roskomnadzor’s dirty hands, has blocked all sites linked to Navalny’s team. I wonder when he will ban mentioning us offline?" Shaveddinov wrote on Twitter, adding instructions on uploading applications on mobile phones to follow Navalny’s blog.

Leonid Volkov, a close ally of Navalny, said on Twitter that the team would soon explain how it plans to sidestep the blocking of the website.

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