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Russia: Detention of Navalny associate on 'extremism' charges a forewarning of mass reprisals

Reacting to the arbitrary detention of Lilia Chanysheva, the former coordinator of Aleksei Navalny’s political headquarters in the Russian city of Ufa, on charges of “establishing or leading an extremist association,” Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: 

“Lilia Chanysheva is the first member of Navalny’s network to be arrested on charges of creating an “extremist” organisation since the network was banned in June. Her arrest and detention set a dangerous precedent, which only highlights the disturbing lengths the authorities will go to bend laws and judicial processes to their will in order to further suppress the rights to freedom of expression and association.  

“The targeting of Lilia Chanysheva is a high-pitch alarm signalling the beginning of a new, large-scale crackdown on Aleksei Navalny’s associates and supporters. Amnesty International estimates that hundreds of Navalny’s supporters across the country are at imminent risk of facing unfounded, politically motivated charges that can lead to years in prison. 

“Now, more than ever, the international community must rally behind Lilia Chanysheva and secure her immediate release before the repression escalates.

“All charges against Lilia Chanysheva must be dropped, the fabricated ‘extremist association’ case must be closed, and Russia’s repressive ‘anti-extremism’ legislation must be fully revised and brought in compliance with Russia’s international human rights obligations.” 

Chanysheva’s detention

Yesterday (10 November), the Kirovsky District Court of Ufa, Bashkortostan, put Lilia Chanysheva, former regional coordinator of “Navalny’s headquarters”, in pretrial detention for two months. The court took this decision despite Chanysheva’s plea that she could be in the early stages of pregnancy. She was accused of “establishing or leading an extremist association” (Art. 282.1(1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) in connection with her past work with Aleksei Navalny. If convicted, Chanysheva could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. 

Lilia Chanysheva was arrested on 9 November, following a search at her home. On the same day, the police searched the homes of other activists in Ufa and other Russian cities as part of a criminal case against Aleksei Navalny and his associates.   

On 9 June, the Moscow City Court arbitrarily banned as “extremist” three civil society organisations - the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation and “Navalny’s headquarters” - all of them linked to Aleksei Navalny. The court hearing was closed to the media and the general public, and the grounds for the designation have not been made public. 

On 28 September, the Russian authorities announced a new criminal investigation against Navalny and his associates on unfounded charges of “establishment of an extremist association”. In October, it transpired that this investigation was joined with four other criminal cases against Aleksei Navalny, his colleagues and supporters. Lilia Chanysheva is the first of Navalny’s associates to be arrested under this criminal case.  

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