Russia on Friday, Oct.13, detained one lawyer of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and searched the homes of two others, aides said, the latest in a crackdown boosted after Moscow's Ukraine assault.
Navalny is Russia's most prominent opposition politician and mobilised huge anti-government rallies before he was jailed in 2021 on fraud charges that his allies at home and abroad say are punitive.
In August, he also received a 19-year jail term in a maximum security prison on extremism charges.
"All these steps are taken to completely isolate Navalny," said Ivan Zhdanov, an exiled ally.
Attorney Igor Sergunin has been detained and his home, along those of Vadim Kobzev and Alexey Liptser, was searched, he said.
"One of them is detained, and we cannot get a hold of the other two," top Navalny associate Maria Pevchikh said.
Kobzev was due in court on Friday to represent Navalny in a lawsuit he has launched against his prison, but several aides said he was absent.
"This is why it's all being done: so that Alexei is left without legal protection, without a connection to the outside world" Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said.
"And to send a signal to other lawyers: it is dangerous to defend him and other political prisoners."
Jailed near Moscow, Navalny communicates with the outside world through his lawyers.
He will soon be moved to a "special regime" colony -- the harshest type of prison reserved for Russia's worst criminals that will severely limit his contact with lawyers and family.
Most of Russia's high profile activists are in exile or behind bars but cases targeting their lawyers have been rare.
Friday's searches were conducted as part of a case for "participating in extremist activities," the head of the legal department at Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation Vyacheslav Gimadi said.
Navalny's political offices were designated "extremist organisations"in 2021, which put employees, volunteers and supporters at risk of prosecution.
"Lawyers do not engage in politics," Gimadi said, "they don't even have the right to refuse protection."
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