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Navalny ally ends bid for parliament after 'extremism' ruling

·1-min read

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - An ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Monday she was halting her run for a seat in Russia's parliament because of a law barring members of organisations declared "extremist" by the authorities from running for office.

Lyubov Sobol said she was compelled to stop her campaign in response to a court ruling last week that outlawed groups linked to Navalny after branding them "extremist".

Navalny, who is serving 2-1/2 years in jail on embezzlement charges he says are trumped up, and his allies have accused the authorities of using the law to crush opposition to the ruling United Russia party ahead of September parliamentary elections.

"My popularity angers the authorities," Sobol, a lawyer at Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, wrote on Facebook. "This is why United Russia and Putin approved a law that bars me from running in elections."

Sobol said was no longer able to protect her staff and her campaign volunteers when officials were opening criminal cases against people taking part in street protests and supporting the opposition.

President Vladimir Putin this month signed a law that bars members or heads of groups declared extremist from running for seats in the State Duma (lower house of parliament) or taking part in other elections for periods of three to five years.

Sobol was under house arrest for more than a month for allegedly breaching COVID-19 safety regulations at an unsanctioned street rally in support of Navalny. She continues to be prosecuted over the case.

She also served as the producer for the Navalny LIVE YouTube channel, a platform used to discuss topical political issues.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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