A Russian court’s decision to outlaw groups linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has no legal basis in Russia’s constitution, the European Union said on Thursday, asserting that the ruling showed growing authoritarianism.
“Yesterday’s ruling by a Moscow Court to label Mr. Alexei Navalny’s organizations as ‘extremist groups’ marks the most serious effort to date by the Russian Government to suppress the independent political opposition,” the EU’s 27 governments said in a statement.
“It is an unfounded decision that confirms a negative pattern of a systematic crackdown on human rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Russian constitution,” the EU said.
Like the United States, the European Union has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to free Navalny and imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials.
Navalny, in jail for parole violations related to an embezzlement case he says was trumped up, mounted a bold challenge to Putin via street protests and graft investigations which he had hoped would bring about a change of leadership.
Wednesday’s ruling, the latest chapter in a long-running crackdown on Putin’s fiercest domestic opponent, delivers a blow to a vast political network that Navalny built to challenge the Russian leader’s grip on power.