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Another Navalny Associate Flees Russia, Asks U.S. For Political Asylum

KALININGRAD, Russia -- Another associate of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has left Russia amid an ongoing crackdown against the defunct organizations associated with the Kremlin critic that were labeled as extremist earlier this year.

Aleksandr Chernikov, the former head of Navalny's network of regional campaign groups in Russia's far-western exclave of Kaliningrad, told the Novy Kaliningrad newspaper on December 6 that he and his family are currently in the United States where they have asked for political asylum.

According to Chernikov, Russian investigators had questioned him twice in "a case concerning extremism" after a court in Moscow labeled all organizations associated with Navalny as extremist earlier in June, effectively outlawing them.

Less than two weeks ago, the former head of Navalny's network of regional campaign groups in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Sergei Boiko, who is also a member of the Novosibirsk city council wrote on Twitter that he and his family would not return to Russia from a business trip in an unspecified country because he feared persecution.

Boiko said he decided not to return to Russia after the arrest of the former chief of Navalny’s support group in the city of Ufa, Lilia Chanysheva, earlier in November.

In another case last month, the chief of Navalny's network of regional campaign groups in St. Petersburg, Irina Fatyanova, said she had left Russia for an unspecified country. Fatyanova also said that she decided to leave Russia after the arrest of Chanysheva.

Navalny has been in prison since February, while several of his associates have been charged with establishing an extremist group.

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