The anti-corruption organization of imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny vowed on Thursday to continue fighting corruption, hours after a Moscow court classified it as “extremist” and banned its work, a move that could clear the way for further crackdowns on his supporters.
“We woke up with a devastating smile on our lips (…) We will continue to fight corruption,” the organization wrote on Twitter, in response to the ruling issued by the Moscow City Court late Wednesday night.
Navalny’s anti-corruption organization and his network of regional offices received the designation preventing it from operating in Russia, after prosecutors said it was planning a Western-backed uprising.
Georgy Alborov, one of Navalny’s assistants and the principal investigator for the organization, wrote on Twitter: “I woke up as an extremist, got to work. I don’t feel any difference.”
The organization has published several investigations into the wealth of Russian elites, usually accompanied by YouTube videos that garner millions of views.
Its president, Ivan Zhdanov, wrote on Twitter: “Today, I told my wife that I am now an extremist and can act badly.”
On the other hand, the European Union condemned, on Thursday, the ruling that classified Navalny’s network of political organizations as “extremist” and banned the work of its employees, making them vulnerable to prosecution.
“The ruling by a Moscow court yesterday (Wednesday), designating Alexei Navalny’s organizations (extremist groups), represents the most serious step yet by the Russian government to crack down on independent political opposition,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in a statement. He considered it an “unfounded decision”.
He added that this decision confirms “the policy of systematic suppression of human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Russian Constitution,” calling on Russia to “respect” its international obligations, especially towards the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The European Union also renewed the call for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the Russian dissident.
For its part, the Council of Europe, on Thursday, called on Moscow to “immediately release” Navalny.
“The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (composed of 47 member states) expressed its grave concern that Alexei Navalny remains in detention to this day,” a statement from the council said.