Candidacy Of Former Navalny Ally Green-Lighted After Hunger Strike.

MURMANSK, Russia -- The former leader of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's team in the northwestern Russian city of Murmansk has been approved as a candidate in local elections after waging a hunger strike over alleged obstruction.

Violetta Grudina said on August 4 that she had received an official letter from election officials confirming her registration.

Last week, Grudina launched a hunger strike, saying that Murmansk authorities were creating artificial obstacles to bar her from running for a city council seat in next month's elections.

Russia holds national and local voting in elections seen as a key test of opposition pushback against tightening restrictions of public criticism and dissent, including the increasing use of loosely written laws on "foreign agents" against the media and NGOs and the ongoing jailings of Navalny and his allies.

Grudina, who was forcibly placed in a COVID-19 treatment facility in mid-July, has said all of the documents she compiled to register with the city's election commission while in the hospital disappeared.

She said she gave the files to the hospital’s chief physician to pass on to her legal representative, who was supposed to register her candidacy with election officials.

Grudina said that same chief physician, Arkady Amozov, recently registered as a candidate for the ruling United Russia party.

A court in Murmansk ruled on July 15 that Grudina must stay in a COVID-19 facility after testing positive for the coronavirus.

She called the court's decision politically motivated, insisting that she had recovered from COVID-19 long ago and did not require hospitalization.

On September 19, Russians will vote to choose members of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, and 39 regional parliaments, as well as nine regional governors.

In the run-up to the elections, the Kremlin has cracked down -- sometimes brutally -- on opposition political figures and independent media.

In early June, a Moscow court labeled Navalny’s political network “extremist,” a move his team has called a sign of a “truly new level” of lawlessness in the country.

Days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had endorsed a law banning leaders and founders of organizations declared "extremist" or "terrorist" by Russian courts from running for elective posts for a period of five years. Other members or employees of such organizations face three-year bans.

With the country mired in economic woes that have seen a decline in real incomes and rising inflation, the United Russia party has been polling at historic lows.

According to independent pollster Levada Center, just 27 percent of Russians support the ruling party, down from 31 percent a year ago.

Radio Free Europe

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