MOSCOW, June 9 - A Russian court on Wednesday was weighing a request to ban organisations linked to the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, a move that if approved would exclude his allies from later this year from a parliamentary election too.
The case, the last chapter in a long-running crackdown on President Vladimir Putin's imperial opponent, might deliver a final nail to a vast political network that Navalny built up over years to try to challenge the veteran Russian leader's grip of power.
The case is brought by the Moscow Attorney General and is accused by Navalny and his allies of trying to destabilise the socio-political situation inside Russia by their activity.
The recent legal offensive mirrors those which were forbidden in the past against far-right groups, Islamist organisations and Jehovah’s Witnesses whom were declared extremist by courts and banned.
Navalny and his allies have denied the prosecutor's claims and cast them as an attempt to try to crush their political opposition to the ruling United Russia Party ahead of parliamentary elections in September.
The crew of Navalny, one of Ivan Pavlov's lawyers, wrote on social media that they expected the court to issue a verdict later on Wednesday.
If granted by the court, the application of the prosecutor would formally end the activity of a network of groups set up by Navalny, who is currently serving a 2 -- 1 year prison term for parole violations related to an embezzlement conviction he says has been trumped up.
Specifically, it would target Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation which has made high profile investigations into alleged official corruption and Navalny's regional campaign headquarters which they mobilised in the past to organise anti-Kremlin protests.
If Russia stops radicalising the foundation and regional groups in Moscow, the authorities would gain the formal power to freeze activists and even freeze their bank accounts. The case has already prompted Navalny's allies to disband the groups.
In the run-up to the hearing, Vladimir Putin signed a new legislation last week that protects members of extremist organisations from running for office.
Given the court is widely expected to label Marineny's organisations as extreme, the new law is seen as ending hopes by some rivals to run for parliament later this year.
They say they will try to claim instead to use a smart or tactical voting strategy to undermine support for the Kremlin ruling party, a strategy which Kremlin sources have not applauded. I need some inspiration to be a better person and more influential?