The Kremlin is stepping up its effort to guarantee favourable results at the polls on March 18 having arrested Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in Moscow on February 22.
The charismatic young Navalny, a fierce critic President Vladimir Putin, has organised dozens of anti-government protests and published reports mass alleging corruption in Russia’s ruling elite. He has been barred from the country’s presidential election due to a conviction on charges that he contends were politically motivated.
The Kremlin has detained Navalny on several previous occasions, handing down short jail terms to the popular opposition leader for organising unauthorised protests.
Putin has always dismissed Navalny as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Western powers. Navalny’s immediate aim in the upcoming election is to reduce turnout by 10% – thus de-legitimising Putin’s iron grip on power – using leaflets, social media, protests, and telephone calls urging people not to vote.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities also blocked a news website sponsored by Kremlin critic and former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, said on its website that the MBK media news site had been added to its block list at the request of the office of the General Prosecutor.
Putin freed Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, in 2013 after he had spent a decade in jail for fraud, a charge Khodorkovsky said had been fabricated to punish him for funding the liberal political opposition to Putin. The president has said he regards the businessman as a common thief.
Russia last year banned a pro-democracy movement founded by Khodorkovsky and also blocked Navalny’s website earlier this month. Navalny claimed at the time that it was designed to blunt his campaign for a boycott of what he calls a sham vote.