Russia adds rock star and Navalny ally to ‘foreign agent’ list

Alexey Navalny

Russian authorities on Friday designated a beloved rock musician, a key ally of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny and four other people as “foreign agents,” alleging they engaged in unspecified political activities while receiving funding from Ukraine.

Among the new names added to the online “foreign agent” register maintained by Russia’s justice ministry were Andrey Makarevich, the founder of cult Soviet and Russian band Mashina Vremeni, and Ivan Zhdanov, the former head of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Also added were a Russian political scientist, a high-profile businessman and philanthropist, and two journalists.

Russian law allows organizations and individuals deemed to be involved in political activity that receive funding from abroad to be declared foreign agents. The term carries a strong pejorative sense and implies additional government scrutiny.

Pro-Kremlin Russian politicians previously pilloried Makarevich for “supporting Kyiv’s anti-Russian policy” in 2014, after he played a concert for refugees in an eastern Ukrainian town retaken by government forces from Moscow-backed separatists.

Another Russian rock legend, Yuri Shevchuk, was fined 50,000 rubles (€818.4) last month after a Russian court found him guilty of “discrediting” the Russian army over his speaking out against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine at one of his performances.

Zhdanov and other Navalny allies have faced multiple criminal cases over the past three years, including over their alleged involvement in an “extremist group,” as the Kremlin widened its multi-pronged crackdown on its most ardent foe and his team.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation has repeatedly maintained that the charges are politically motivated and tied to its investigations into official graft as well as the group’s campaigning for anti-Kremlin electoral candidates.