MOSCOW — A nonprofit organization exposing corruption in Russia and run by opposition leader Alexei Navalny was designated Wednesday by the Justice Ministry as a “foreign agent,” crippling its ability to keep working.

A 2012 Russian law holds that any organization that receives foreign money to engage in “political activity” must register with the authorities and submit to time-consuming regular “audits.”

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, known as FBK for its initials in Russian, has “never received foreign donations,” tweeted its spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh. The designation is nothing more than “an attempt to stop our activities,” she wrote.

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Navalny, who has become the most prominent Russian critic of President Vladimir Putin, tweeted: “FBK has never received a kopeck of foreign money. All of FBK’s money comes from your donations (from citizens of the Russian Federation). The actions of the Ministry of Justice are absolutely illegal and, obviously, by direct order of Putin.”

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In another tweet, he wrote: “Putin is terribly afraid of FBK. Because he relies on the power of thieves, corruptioneers and bribe-takers. And we expose corruption. And we will not stop no matter what. Please support us.”

Navalny also demanded that the Justice Ministry provide evidence to back up its claims.

Sergey Aleksashenko, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution and former deputy finance minister and first deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia, said on Twitter: “That’s what a full confession looks like: Kremlin can’t deny the results of FBK investigations.”

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FBK specializes in reports concerning the real estate holdings of government officials, typically worth far more than what they should be able to afford on their state salaries. It has detailed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s properties, including an “ancestral home,” assorted other mansions, a vineyard and a dacha that it valued at $343 million.

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Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the Kremlin had nothing to do with the FBK designation.

Vladimir Titov, acting chief of the Justice Ministry’s department for nongovernmental affairs, told Interfax that his agency had detected transfers to the foundation from Spain and the United States totaling about $2,000. The Meduza website reported that the money from the United States came from a Russian citizen who has a home in Florida.

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The foundation and its staff members were subjected to more than 200 police raids during the summer, at the height of street protests over Moscow’s city elections. The raids were related to allegations that the foundation was engaged in money laundering. Yarmysh and Navalny deny that charge, as well.

Navalny was a leader of those protests — except for the many weeks he spent in detention as Moscow authorities repeatedly had him and many of his allies held on administrative charges.

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His political work is separate from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, but Russian officials have not paid much heed to that distinction.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry announced that the Moscow police department is suing Navalny and other protest organizers for leading unsanctioned protests on July 27 and Aug. 3. The police are seeking $278,000 in damages as compensation for the costs they said they incurred.

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“The claimant requests compensation for the damage inflicted by deploying forces and equipment to ensure public order during unauthorized mass events,” a police spokesman told the Tass news agency.

Those demonstrations were marked by some of the most brutal police measures in Moscow in many years, with thousands of people detained. Many Moscow residents viewed the police response as a signal that Putin’s government would no longer tolerate protests.Public reaction to the crackdown was largely negative, according to polls, and by the end of the summer, the police had mostly backed off.

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The criminal case, the damage-seeking lawsuit and now the “foreign agent” designation seem to suggest the Kremlin is moving to stymie the opposition by less physical means.

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“Using all possible methods, they are destroying the competing political force by the elections of 2021,” Grigory Melkonyants, of the Golos elections monitoring association, wrote on Facebook.

Lyubov Sobol, an attorney for the Anti-Corruption Foundation who was barred from running for Moscow’s city council by the election commission, objected to the way the ministry publicized the designation announcement.

“The Ministry of Justice has not given any proof of foreign financing of the Anti-Corruption Foundation; however, it has managed to write up this news and distribute it among the propagandists,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is yet another attempt to frighten us, pressure us, get dirt on us, but it won’t work!”

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Seventy-one organizations have been listed as foreign agents since the law was enacted, and it has largely made it impossible for them to keep working in any effective manner.

Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.

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