Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been put on a watchlist of “extremists” and “terrorists” in a further attempt by the Kremlin to discredit its most outspoken foe.
However, Mr Navalny, who is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence in a penal colony for breaking the terms of his parole while in a coma, shrugged it off as a welcome change from being classified as a flight risk.
“Extremism is great: No one checks in on you. I was afraid they were going to make me kiss Putin’s portrait,” he joked in an Instagram post from prison done with the help of his lawyers.
“It’s just that there is now a sign over my bunk saying I am a terrorist.”
Mr Navalny was deemed as a flight risk as soon as he was arrested, which meant prison authorities could wake him up every two hours at night to make sure he was still there.
The Kremlin critic has been behind bars since his arrest as he had been labelled a 'flight risk'
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko
The decision by a special board at his prison colony to add him to the watchlist of “extremists” and “terrorists” is the latest in an ongoing campaign to undermine and dismantle his opposition movement.
Just last month, investigators announced new criminal charges against him involving founding and taking part in an extremist group. If successful, they could lead to a further 10 years in jail.
The charges will also keep Mr Navalny’s top allies, many of whom have already fled abroad due to other extremism-related measures, from considering coming back to Russia.
Mr Navalny survived a near-fatal poisoning from Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok last summer. When he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been convalescing, he was arrested upon arrival and has been in detention ever since.
Since then, Russian authorities have launched an unprecedented clampdown on any dissent. Last month, elections saw President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly unpopular United Russia party secure a victory in an election that was marred by reports of fraud.