On Navalny's Birthday, Putin Signs Law Effectively Banning His Associates From Running For Office.

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that would ban supporters and members of organizations deemed by authorities as "extremist" from being elected to any post -- a move making it virtually impossible for anyone connected to jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny from gaining public office.

The law endorsed by Putin on June 4 bars 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 will face a three-year ban.

The move appears to be a thinly veiled attempt at neutralizing Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which Russian authorities are seeking to have declared extremist ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

The FBK has already been declared a “foreign agent,” a punitive designation under a separate law.

The law appears to be retroactively applicable since it only involves restricting a person's rights, legal analysts say.

Russian authorities have ramped up their pressure on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections in September with opinion polls showing support for the ruling United Russia party at the lowest levels ever.

Navalny's regional headquarters have been instrumental in implementing a Smart Voting strategy -- a project designed to promote candidates who are most likely to defeat those from United Russia in various elections.

Navalny, Putin’s most vocal critic, is currently serving a prison sentence on embezzlement charges that he says were trumped up because of his political activity.

The law was signed by Putin on Navalny's 45th birthday.

Navalny has been in custody since January, when he returned to Russia following weeks of medical treatment in Germany for a nerve-agent poisoning in August that he says was carried out by operatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) at the behest of Putin.

The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning.

Since his jailing, the Kremlin has stepped up its campaign against Navalny and his associates, many of whom have fled the country in fear of being arrested.

Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

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