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A Russian court on Wednesday labeled groups linked to jailed opposition leader Alexey Navanly’s anti-Kremlin movement “extremist,” outlawing his allies from running in the country’s upcoming elections and leaving his supporters vulnerable to prosecution and possible prison time.
There’s not much doubt the move had Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval, and its not particularly surprising that the government is clamping down on what’s widely considered it’s biggest, if not only, political threat. But the timing of the ruling likely isn’t a coincidence, Reuters and The New York Times report. Putin is due to meet face-to-face with President Biden in Switzerland next week, and Reuters’ Russia Bureau Chief Andrew Osborn surmises the ban is also a brazen message to the U.S. ahead of the rendezvous — likely something along the lines of “butt out of our politics,” he writes. Per the Times, it signals to Biden that “Russian domestic affairs are not up for discussion.”
Washington has called on Moscow to free Navalny, but it’s unclear if Biden will bring it up during the conversation, or if he’ll mostly focus on foreign policy. So far, though, he’s hinted that he’s not planning on holding much back, saying Wednesday he’s going to let Putin “know what I want him to know.” Read more at Reuters and The New York Times.