Prominent activist’s anti-graft group accused by Russia of taking foreign money
Oct. 09, 2019
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, known by its Russian initials as FBK, has “never received foreign donations,” its spokeswoman, Kira Yarmish , tweeted. The designation is nothing more than “an attempt to stop our activities,” she wrote.
Navalny, who has become the most prominent Russian critic of President Vladimir Putin, himself 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.”
In another tweet, he demanded that the Justice Ministry make public any evidence of foreign donations it might have.
The foundation and its staff members were subjected to repeated police raids during the summer, at the height of the street protests over Moscow’s city elections , over allegations that it was engaged in money laundering. Yarmish and Navalny categorically 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.
His political work is separate from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, but Russian officials have not paid much attention 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 incurred.
“The claimant requests compensation for the damage inflicted by deploying forces and equipment to ensure public order during unauthorized mass events,” a police spokesperson told the Tass news agency.
Those protest rallies were marked by some of the most brutal police crackdowns Moscow has experienced in many years, and thousands were detained. The police response was seen by many as a signal that protest would no longer be tolerated by Putin’s government.
Public reaction to the crackdown, however, was negative according to polls and by the end of the summer the police had mostly backed off.
The criminal case, the damage-seeking lawsuit and now the “foreign agent” designation seem to suggest that the Kremlin is now moving to stymie the opposition by less physical means.
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.