Russian Opposition Politician Yashin Barred From Elections

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin says he has been barred from running in an upcoming election due to his support of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, whose network of organizations has been declared by the authorities to be "extremist."

"I submitted documents for elections to the Moscow City Duma. In response, the Election Commission said I was declared 'a person involved in extremist activities' and that I am not allowed to participate in elections," Yashin wrote on Facebook on June 25.

He called the move revenge for his support for Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic.

Yashin, a staunch Kremlin opponent who has been arrested previously for his protest activities, said he would appeal the "political decision" to bar him from the upcoming vote in court but added that he was under "no illusions" on his chances of a successful challenge.

"Because of this arbitrariness, I'm deprived of the right to go to the polls for five years, I won't be able to work as your deputy," he wrote.

On September 19, Russia will vote to choose members of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, and 39 regional parliaments, as well as nine regional governors.

In the run-up to the elections, the Kremlin has cracked down -- sometimes brutally -- on opposition political figures and independent media.

On June 9, a Moscow court ruled Navalny's political network should be designated as "extremist," in what the opposition politician's team has called a sign of a "truly new level" of lawlessness in the country.

The ruling came days after Putin endorsed a law that bars leaders and founders of organizations declared extremist or terrorist by Russian courts from running for elective posts for a period of five years. Other members or employees of such organizations will face a three-year ban.

The two factors together prevent people associated with Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his network of regional political offices across Russia from seeking public office. It also carries lengthy prison terms for activists who have worked with the organizations.

Reacting to the election authorities' decision to bar Yashin from the September poll, close Navalny associate Leonid Volkov said the opposition politician had nothing to do with the FBK or its nationwide offices and that he was not named in the "extremism" case against these organizations.

He also said on Twitter that the court ruling had not yet entered into force.

Earlier this month, Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for the FBK, said she was quitting her bid to become a Duma member in order to protect her campaign team from being prosecuted under the draconian law targeting Navalny's associates.

With the country mired in economic woes that have seen a decline in real incomes and rising inflation, Putin's ruling United Russia party has been polling at historic lows. According to the Levada Center polling outfit, just 27 percent of Russians support the party, down from 31 percent last August.