MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has approved the Justice Ministry’s decision to brand opposition politician and blogger Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as "a foreign agent."
The Zamoskvorechye District Court on November 1 rejected Navalny's appeal against the ministry's decision under a 2012 law widely criticized by the West.
The Justice Ministry justified its October 9 move by noting that FBK received funds from a U.S. company and a Spanish national. The 2012 law says organizations that receive financial support from outside of Russia must register as foreign agents.
Navalny rejected the ministry’s move, saying Russian authorities fear FBK because it discovers evidence of corruption on the part of state officials.
The owner of the U.S. company that was mentioned in the document turned out to be a Russian citizen named Mikhail Maslikhov.
Maslikhov has confirmed that he personally, not his company, wired $50 to Navalny's foundation.
The Spanish national, Roberto Fabio Monda Cardenas, has not given clear explanations about why he decided to wire 140,000 rubles ($2,200) to Navalny's foundation.
FBK Director Ivan Zhdanov has said that the donation from the Spanish national was likely “a provocation” and not a real donation, adding that the Spanish donation took advantage of the system to try and set up FBK so the authorities could label it with foreign-agent status.
The FBK was founded in 2011 by Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader and a lawyer by training who has doggedly pursued evidence of corruption at the highest levels of government.
Its investigations regularly provoke public uproar over misuse of state funds.
In 2017, a probe into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s wealth became a catalyst for a wave of mass rallies that erupted across Russia.
Navalny recently served a 30-day jail sentence on charges that he organized recent protests against the exclusion of independent candidates from municipal elections in Moscow in September.
Of some 30 candidates barred from running, five were affiliated with or employed by the FBK.
In August, the foundation said all of its accounts had been blocked while Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee proceeded with a money-laundering probe that has threatened the organization’s continued existence as a self-professed force for elite accountability and political change.