Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has countered reports that it plans to relocate to Georgia as it faces an “extremism” ban in Russia.
The RBC news website on Monday cited two unnamed sources familiar with FBK’s activities as saying that several key staffers and equipment have allegedly been moved to the Caucasus country. The report notes that the team plans to continue producing popular YouTube live streams and video investigations exposing alleged official corruption in Russia from Tbilisi.
“This fact is not hidden within the organization,” one of the sources was quoted as saying.
But Leonid Volkov, a senior Navalny aide living in exile, disputed the report as “fake news.”
Volkov also denied previous reports by the independent video news website Sota.Vision that around 40 key FBK staffers had moved to Georgia and posted their new whereabouts on Instagram without identifying the location by name.
“We don’t interfere in the employees’ lives on weekends, it’s their personal business,” said FBK director Ivan Zhdanov, another exiled Navalny ally.
A Russian court last month ordered FBK to suspend its activities ahead of next week’s anticipated ruling designating it, along with Navalny’s now-dissolved nationwide network of regional headquarters, an “extremist” organization.
FBK and the regional network’s anticipated “extremist” designations would paralyze Russia’s most dominant opposition force five months ahead of parliamentary elections where the pro-Putin ruling party seeks to overcome historically low approval ratings to keep its supermajority. The groups’ members could also face lengthy prison sentences in Russia if they continue working.
A number of Navalny staff have already fled the country under criminal charges.
Founded by Navalny in 2011 and declared a “foreign agent” in 2019, FBK has carried out high-profile investigations into alleged corruption among Russia’s ruling elite. A viral video into President Vladimir Putin’s alleged $1.3 billion palace fueled mass nationwide protests this winter.
Navalny, 44, is serving two and a half years in a notoriously harsh prison outside Moscow after being found guilty in February of violating parole in an old fraud case while recovering from a near-fatal poisoning abroad that he pins on Putin.