06/11/2021, 18.55
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Moscow: Navalnists branded extremists

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Fund for the Fight against Corruption has been hit. Last year it was qualified as a "foreign agent". Gagged after nearly 10 years of complaints. All possible pro-Naval’ny candidates banned. The Communists could take advantage of the useful vote for the anti-Putin candidates.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Moscow central court has ruled the Fund for the Fight against Corruption (Fbk), The group is linked to the well-known dissident Alexei Naval'ny, an "extremist organization". Last year the authorities qualified it as a "foreign agent" (a body financed from abroad), applying various punitive measures. Now members of the Fbk even face prosecution for terrorism.

The foundation of the Fbk dates back to September 2011, when it was registered as a non-commercial, non-profit organization. Naval’ny is the founder, even if he has not assumed any official role within it. The first executive director, Vladimir Ashurkov, had explained the aims of the Fbk with the desire not to limit itself to the statutory purpose of avoiding abuses in the expenses of state bodies, the so-called Rospil project, but to create a team of analysts and jurists to denounce all kinds of abuses in the public economy. Other projects followed by called the Rosjama and Rosvybory, with denunciations addressed to the world of Russian politicians in Moscow and throughout the country.

Funding was raised publicly. Initially via the Yandex.koshelek website (the "virtual wallet"); in April 2012 Ashurkov told Forbes that the budget exceeded 300 thousand dollars: by the end of the year it had reached more than half a million. The names of major Russian lenders were also indicated, announcing the launch of other analysis and reporting projects.

In 2013, about thirty people were already working at Fbk, including web campaign designers, and staff from the St. Petersburg branch. One of the group’s first successes that year was the resignation from the State Duma of the director of the Ethics Commission, Vladimir Pekhtin, a member of Putin’s United Russia party: the navalnists had found he owned several properties in Florida.

The first persecution against the Fbk dates back to January 2015, when the offices were searched. The then director Roman Rubanov explained that it had been requested by Duma member Mikhail Degtarev after another campaign of accusations against the corruption of deputies. Navalnists were not cowed and continued their campaigns, also circulating films against politicians and magistrates, including a widespread one about the robberies in the construction of the “Vostochnyj” cosmodrome.

The Fbk gained great popularity in 2017 with the film "He's Not Your Dimon", which exposed the broad corruption schemes attributed to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, former president of Russia and a staunch associate of Putin. The drones showed the princely villas of "Dimon"; then large protests by young people began, known as the parades of "jogging shoes" (which Medvedev was buying at a rate of 20 per month). The characters of Medvedev's court included various oligarchs; one of them, Alisher Usmanov, sued Naval’nyj. The court forced the Fbk to delete the video and issue an official apology.

Rubanov refused to remove the offending clips. To avoid further sanctions, he was replaced by Igor Zhdanov in 2018. In May 2019, the Fund had to undergo a new registration procedure, in the Putin era the weapon of choice for state bodies to liquidate unwanted groups. Then the accusations of being "foreign agents" started, a definition that now applies to any association unwelcome to the government: a like on Facebook from a US fan is enough to start the sanctioning procedures.

Until 2021, with the return and arrest of Navalnyj after the poisoning, and the famous video of Putin's palace on the Black Sea: the imminence of the elections led to total persecution, banning everyone possible naval candidates.

Now Communists hope to take advantage of the "useful vote", that is for non-Putin candidates. Until now they had been more or less loyal allies of the President-Tsar, but could reserve some surprises. Stalin's heirs may just become the only way out of neo-Stalinism: a truly unexpected scenario in post-Soviet Russia.

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