Accessibility links

Breaking News

Key Supporter Breaks Ties With Navalny Associates

Anastasia Vasilyeva, the chief of the Physicians' Alliance NGO
Anastasia Vasilyeva, the chief of the Physicians' Alliance NGO

One of the most outspoken supporters of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says she is "disappointed" with the Kremlin critic’s exiled associates and has broken ties with them as the country heads to polling stations for elections.

Anastasia Vasilyeva, the chief of the Physicians' Alliance NGO, accused Navalny's now-defunct Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) of leaving her and her team without any support after "using" them, saying that Navalny's associates Leonid Volkov, Ivan Zhdanov, and Maria Pevchikh, who currently live outside of Russia, "are ruining everything that we once created."

"I’m very disappointed. The foundation’s managers are now destroying what all of us worked so hard to create," she wrote in a Facebook post late on September 16.

"Now [Navalny's associates] are in Europe and a certain someone (Navalny) finds himself in prison. See the difference? Anyone who believed in him is now at risk of criminal prosecution. And when they lock these people up, no one will remember them," she added while not elaborating on what was being destroyed.

Vasilyeva's posting sparked a heated reaction online, with many believing that she was forced to make the statement on the eve of parliamentary elections as the Kremlin-backed ruling party, which has seen its support slump, aims to retain power.

Vasilyeva, who famously played her piano while police recently ransacked her apartment during a crackdown over the past year against Navalny and his allies, has been under increasing pressure from authorities.

WATCH: Navalny Supporter Defiantly Plays Piano As Russian Police Raid Her Home

Navalny Supporter Defiantly Plays Piano As Russian Police Raid Her Home
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:40 0:00

In March, the Physicians' Alliance was placed on the state's controversial "foreign agents" list, which has been used to stymie monitoring groups and the media, to disqualify prominent opposition candidates, to drive opposition leaders to flee the country, and to restrict access to volunteers and fundraising for any person or group placed on it.

On September 1, Moscow police detained her and took her to a court hearing to face charges of allegedly violating restrictive measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

The hearing appears to never have taken place even though several of Navalny’s associates and supporters who were part of the case faced the court and were handed parole-like sentences on charges for publicly calling for people to take part in unsanctioned rallies to support the Kremlin critic in January.

Some compared Vasilyeva's situation with that of Belarusian blogger Raman Pratasevich, once a critic of his country's strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his crackdown on the opposition.

Pratasevich was arrested along with his girlfriend in Minsk on May 23 after Belarusian authorities forced their Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land in the Belarusian capital. He later changed his public stance and views on the political situation in Belarus, a move many opposition leaders say appeared to be made under duress.

The beginning of the year marked Navalny's return to Russia following treatment in Germany for a nerve-agent poisoning he claims was carried out by Russian security agents at Putin's behest.

Navalny was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on a parole violation charge that he denounces as absurd.

Thousands of Russians were detained during nationwide protests calling for his release and later the FBK and his network of regional offices were shut down as "extremist" organizations.