Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny appears in court via video link as his campaign offices disband


MOSCOW (REUTERS) – Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s team said it was disbanding its network of regional campaign offices across Russia on Thursday (April 29) as the opposition figure appeared in a video link from jail, looking gaunt after a hunger strike.

His allies made their announcement in a YouTube video before a court hearing which was due to consider a request from prosecutors to declare the main pillars of Navalny’s political organisation as extremist.

A Moscow court barred Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his separately run network of regional campaign offices from posting online earlier this week.

The FBK was barred on Tuesday from accessing its bank accounts at the request of the prosecutor, and from organising protests and publishing media articles, while the court considers further action.

If the network is declared extremist, the authorities will gain the legal power to hand down jail terms to activists and freeze bank accounts.

Navalny, 44, is serving a jail sentence for parole violations on an earlier conviction that he says was politically motivated.

In his first appearance since his hunger strike, which he has said he is gradually ending, a shaven-headed Navalny looked physically drained and to have lost weight, according to a reporter who saw him in a grainy video link during the legal hearing.

Navalny declared his hunger strike in prison on March 31 to demand proper medical care for leg and back pain.

He said on April 23 that he would start gradually ending it after getting medical care, even as the political prospects for him and his movement darkened.