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Aleksei Navalny gestures while speaking via a video link from prison during a court session on December 28.

Russia has added jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny and several of his allies to its list of "terrorists and extremists," as the government continues its assault on the country's civil society.

The entries for Navalny and five of his associates -- Lyubov Sobol, Vyacheslav Gimadi, Georgy Alburov, Lilia Chanysheva, and Ruslan Shaveddinov -- appeared in the register of Rosfinmonitoring on January 25, putting them on the same level as right-wing nationalist groups and foreign terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and Islamic State.

The move marks the latest in an ongoing crackdown on Navalny's now-outlawed political network and civil society more broadly.

Less than two weeks ago, two other close associates of Navalny, Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, were added to the list, which by law means their bank accounts must be frozen immediately.

Over the past year since Navalny returned from Germany, where he was recovering from a poison attack that almost killed him, thousands of protesters have been detained for demonstrating in support of the Kremlin critic, with many jailed.

More than half of his political coordinators have left Russia or been arrested for their activism, with some placed on wanted lists as "terrorists" or "extremists."

Journalists who probed the circumstances of Navalny's poisoning and cited his corruption investigations have been branded "foreign agents."

Last year, the Moscow City Court declared all organizations linked to Navalny as "extremist," preventing people associated with Navalny and his network of regional offices across Russia from seeking public office.

The ruling on his organizations also carries possible lengthy prison terms for activists who have worked with them.

Russia's 'Foreign Agent' Law: A Blunt Instrument To Silence Dissent
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Navalny himself has been in prison since February 2021 after being speedily tried and handed a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for violating the terms of an earlier parole in what was widely regarded a trumped-up, politically motivated case.

Navalny has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his poisoning with a Novichok-style chemical substance.

The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny's poisoning.

Raman Protasevich

Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist who was detained in Minsk last year after the commercial flight he was on was forced to land, says he is no longer under house arrest.

Pratasevich said in an interview on January 25 with the YouTube channel of Dzmitry Belyakou, director of the pro-government Systemic Rights Defense Center in Belarus, that he was allowed to leave the place where he had been staying.

Countries around the world have condemned Belarus's authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka for the "state hijacking" of the passenger aircraft to arrest Pratasevich and his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega. The flight was en route to Vilnius from Athens on May 23 when it was forced to make an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital because of a bomb threat that several countries have called a hoax.

"I just left the place where I was under house arrest," Pratasevich said, adding that it has been difficult for him to socialize and adjust to life after seven months under house arrest.

Pratasevich did not say when exactly he had been released from house arrest, adding that he had no specific plans other that that he would work on media activities at the Systemic Rights Defense Center. He is also going to restart his Telegram channel Sprava, he said, as the investigation into his case continues.

Pratasevich faces charges in connection with civil disturbances that followed a disputed presidential election in August 2020, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison. He was a key administrator of the Telegram channel Nexta-Live, which covered the mass protests denouncing the official results of the August 2020 election.

After about a month in jail, Pratasevich and Sapega were moved from the separate prisons where they were being held to house arrest amid calls by the opposition and rights activists for their immediate release.

Before being transferred to house arrest, Pratasevich made several appearances on Belarusian state television that prompted the opposition and Western officials to accuse Lukashenka's regime of extracting video confessions under torture and call for his and his girlfriend's immediate release.

Belarusian prosecutors said last month that they had filed final charges against Sapega, adding that she was charged with inciting social hatred, damaging information security, mishandling private data, and threatening law enforcement.

If convicted, Sapega could face up to six years in prison.

Pratasevich did not talk about Sapega in his YouTube appearance on January 25.

In a report released on January 17, a fact-finding team set up by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to probe the incident concluded that the bomb threat was "deliberately false."

The U.S. Justice Department then charged four Belarusian government officials with conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy in the forced landing of the flight.

In an indictment filed on January 20 in a New York federal court, prosecutors said the officials conspired to fake a bomb threat that forced the Ryanair flight to make an emergency landing in Minsk while the plane was flying over the country’s airspace.

The Belarusian military scrambled a MiG-29 fighter jet to ensure the crew complied with the orders of flight controllers, who the indictment says were under the control Belarusian security agents.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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