Russian authorities blocked political dissident Alexei Navalny’s website on Monday ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for September, in their latest attempt to squash the domestic influence of the jailed Putin opponent.
Navalny’s main website publicized his investigations into high-profile political corruption scandals involving Russian establishment officials. Users could not enter the website as of Monday, finding a pop-up notification saying that access will be prevented in compliance with a Russian information law, the Moscow Times reported.
The regime’s crackdown also targeted the Russian-based websites of 48 other operatives and groups associated with Navalny. Roskomnadzor, the Russian state internet watchdog responsible for regulating and censoring mass media, blocked navalny.com and the other webpages deemed problematic at the direction of the state’s prosecutor general, it confirmed to Reuters in a statement. The internet regulator said it restricted the sites because they were engaging in “propaganda and banned extremist activity.”
Last month, a Russian court characterized the Navalny-affiliated organizations as “extremist,” an allegation they refuted. The country’s top prosecutor accused them of trying to create a tumultuous political environment to orchestrate a revolution.
Maria Pevchikh, who was involved in some of Navalny’s major probes, said that the Russian authorities went after many allies and organizational arms of the opposition movement.
“They have blocked all sites linked to us,” Pevchikh said on Twitter. “They have simply decided to purge us from the Russian Internet.”
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation wrote on Twitter that it expects Russian officials to next launch an attack on Navalny’s “Smart Voting” website, which provides recommendations to citizens on how to strategically vote to oust pro-Moscow ruling party incumbents from their seats.
Navalny was poisoned in August 2020 by Russian agents and was subsequently imprisoned for parole violations, which he decried as phony crimes. The Biden administration imposed punitive sanctions on several Russian government officials in response, as well as entities involved in the production of the chemical agent used on Navalny, in an effort to punish the Russian regime for its human rights violations.