Russia blocks 49 websites linked to Navalny

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Moscow

Russian authorities have restricted access to the website of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and to dozens of sites run by his close allies, Navalny’s team said Monday.

The action came amid mounting government pressure on opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists in Russia ahead of the country’s parliamentary election.

The September vote is widely seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cement his rule before a 2024 presidential election.

The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.

Navalny’s website, as well as the website of his top strategist, Leonid Volkov, and longtime ally Lyubov Sobol were unavailable on Monday.

The websites of Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of about 40 regional offices, which the Russian government outlawed as extremist groups last month, also could not be accessed; neither could the website of the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors union and an online page calling for Navalny’s freedom.

According to Russia’s state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, access to all of the websites was restricted at the behest of the Russian prosecutor general’s office.

In a statement to the Interfax news agency, Roskomnadzor confirmed blocking the websites, saying they were being “used for propaganda” of extremist groups.

“(They) have decided to completely wipe us out of the internet,” Navalny associate Maria Pevchikh tweeted.

Navalny, who is Putin’s most ardent political foe, was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — an accusation that Russian officials reject.—Agencies

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