Putin signs ‘extremist’ bill that would bar critics from polls

5 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law expected to be used to ban allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from running in elections.

Russia’s legal information portal showed Putin had signed the bill on barring staff, members and sponsors of “extremist” groups from running in parliamentary elections, reports AFP.

Critics have denounced the law as the latest in a series of moves to crack down on Russia’s opposition ahead of elections due in September for Russia’s lower house State Duma.

The law was overwhelmingly approved by the upper house Federation Council earlier this week.

A Russian court is considering whether to designate Navalny’s political network an extremist organisation and could make a decision as early as next week. The law affects not only senior members and activists of Navalny’s team but potentially tens of thousands of Russians who supported its work with donations.

Leaders of such groups will not be able to run in parliamentary elections for five years, while members and those who helped finance their work will be banned from running for three years.

Navalny, Putin’s most prominent domestic critic, barely survived a near fatal poisoning with a Soviet-designed nerve agent last summer that he blames on the Kremlin.

After returning to Russia in January following months of treatment in Germany, he was imprisoned for two-and-a-half-years on old embezzlement charges in February.