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Russia adds opposition leader Alexei Navalny to terrorist list

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Russia adds opposition leader Alexei Navalny to terrorist list
Russian Opposition activist Alexei Navalny attends a rally in support of opposition candidates in July 2019. File photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Russia added opposition leader Alexei Navalny and several of his top aides to its terrorists and extremists list on Tuesday.

The Federal Financial Monitoring Service amended the list to include Navalny among other individuals Russia believes are involved in activities that support terrorist or extremist organizations.

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Navaly was arrested last year in Moscow upon returning from Germany where he was being treated for a poisoning attack.

He's serving a 2.5-year jail term for violating conditions of parole while those in his circle have faced criminal charges. Many of his senior associates have fled the country and live in exile.

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Navalny, one of the most vocal critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found guilty in 2014 of embezzling $470,000 from a cosmetics company and stealing $80,000 from a processing company.

Of the 22 people on the terrorists and extremists list, 12 are activists connected to Navalny, including senior aides Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, who were added to the list earlier this month and are in exile.

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The designation restricts those on the list from accessing national banking services.

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"I'm proud to work in our excellent team of 'extremists and terrorists,'" Volkov said in a statement on Facebook. "By devaluing the meaning of words or turning the meaning of words inside out, the Kremlin is digging a deeper and deeper hole for itself: it is doing everything to ensure that those who still believe in Putin stop believing in him."

Lyubov Sobol, an associate of Navalny, was among those added to the terrorist list on Tuesday and joked on social media that she may be the first graduate with a law diploma from Moscow State University to be designated.

"Me, Navalny and colleagues were included in the state list of terrorists and extremists. Participated in elections and fought corruption? Extremist," she said on Facebook.

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The designations coincided with the world premiere of the film "Navalny" at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. According to the Sundance Institute, which announced the film on Tuesday, director Daniel Roher had "unparalleled access to its subject and his inner circle.

"The film is a revealing documentary thrill about Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny," the institute said.

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Volkov said they were designated "immediately after the announcement of the film's premiere.

"[T]he inclusion of us in some kind of list only sounds loud," Zhdanov said via Twitter. "And globally -- is nonsense. We haven't had accounts for a long time. They might put us on the list of alien monsters of pink ponies. Our lives will not change from this.

"And whatever we did, we will continue to do," he said.

Prosecutors on Tuesday also sought to have a one-year suspended sentence of Navalny's brother, Oleg Navalny, changed to a prison term. They allege that he broke health rules by promoting protests against the imprisonment of his brother.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price called the designation "disturbing" and urged the Kremlin to cease abusing so-called extremism designations to target non-violent organizations and to stop repressing Navalny and his supporters.

"Russian authorities already have effectively criminalized one of the country's remaining independent political movements with their earlier designation of Navalny-affiliated organizations as, quote/unquote, "extremist," he told reporters Tuesday during a regular State Department press briefing. "This latest designation represents a new low in Russia's continuing crackdown on independent civil society."

EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano criticized Russia's actions as "continued repression against critical voices," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

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Wopke Hoekstra, Netherlands' minister of foreign affairs, said via Twitter the designations were "truly upsetting."

"It's the world upside down," he said. "Standing up for democracy and protesting corruption isn't extremists. It's a fundamental right."

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