Russia blacklisted the anti-graft fund of opposition leader Alexei Navalny as a “foreign agent,” stepping up pressure on it as part of wider crackdown on Kremlin opponents after a summer of street protests.
The Justice Ministry said it was adding Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation to the register of foreign agents, subjecting it to strict regulation reserved for non-government organisations that receive foreign funding and carry out political activities. Navalny rejected the allegations, saying on Twitter that the fund “has never received a kopeck of foreign money” and relied exclusively on donations from Russians. His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, called the move another bid “to shut us down.”
The Russian authorities in August started an investigation into the alleged laundering of $15 million by the fund, which has embarrassed top allies of President Vladimir Putin with YouTube videos exposing their lavish lifestyles. Navalny and his allies deny the charges.
The Kremlin in July and August faced the biggest protests since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012 after four years as PM, sparked by the refusal to allow independent candidates to run for municipal polls in Moscow.
Opposition leaders are also facing multiple lawsuits, including one seeking compensation for grass trampled during an unsanctioned rally. The Navalny fund’s director, Ivan Zhdanov, said the total money payable currently amounts to almost half a million dollars.
Russia has listed other NGOs such as human rights organization Memorial as foreign agents, subjecting them to strict checks.