Russian court labels Navalny groups 'extremist'

A Russian court has designated groups led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny as "extremist" amid a growing crackdown on dissent.

A court in Moscow on Wednesday handed down the ruling on three organizations linked to Navalny, including the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The designation bars the groups from holding rallies, campaigning for elections and distributing information online.

Russian authorities began the legal process to classify the groups as "extremist" after sending Navalny to prison in February. The court ruling comes ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September that are held every five years.

In a message posted on his Instagram account by his supporters, Navalny denounced President Vladimir Putin's administration. He said a government mired in corruption calls those who fight corruption "extremists."

The United States criticized Russia's move. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, "Russia has effectively criminalized one of the country's few remaining independent political movements."

He said the designation is "indicative of the Russian government's widening crackdown on political opposition, civil society, and independent media."

He added that the US urges Russia to "cease the abuse of 'extremism' designations to target nonviolent organizations, end its repression of Mr Navalny and his supporters, and honor its international obligations to respect and ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms."