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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

National Bolshevik Party Declared Extremist

MTNational Bolshevik Party founder Eduard Limonov leaving the Moscow City Court with his wife and 6-month-old son after the ruling on Thursday evening.
The Moscow City Court on Thursday declared the unregistered National Bolshevik Party an extremist organization, making it possible for the authorities to arrest anyone who takes part in its activities.

Judge Alla Nazarova also ruled in favor of a request from city prosecutors to ban the organization.

Writer Eduard Limonov, who created the organization in 1993, told reporters outside the courthouse that the ruling was "politically motivated and unjust."

"This precedent will enable the authorities to do the same thing to parties or people who hold alternative views," Limonov said.

Limonov said he expected a wave of criminal investigations to be opened into the activities of people associated with the organization.

Participation in an extremist organization is punishable by a fine of 200,000 rubles ($7,800) or two years in prison. "I will not organize another party because it would be destroyed just as this one was," Limonov said. "But I will not change my beliefs."

The unregistered and now banned National Bolshevik Party earned notoriety for its audacious escapades directed against the authorities. Over the years, members threw food at senior officials, tried to seize federal buildings and hung huge posters on buildings calling on President Vladimir Putin to resign.

Limonov himself was arrested in the Altai region in April 2001 and subsequently convicted of ordering members of his organization to buy weapons. He was cleared of the more serious charges of terrorism, forming a private army to invade Kazakhstan and plotting to overthrow the government.

He was released in June 2003 after serving nearly 25 months of a four-year sentence. Immediately after his release, he told reporters that he was going to get serious about trying to make a difference in Russia. "I don't want to waste my time on lightweight ventures," he said.

Recently the organization made headlines by taking part in the Dissenters' Marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg as part of opposition coalition The Other Russia.

But none of Limonov's erstwhile allies were to be seen at the court on Thursday.

Limonov's lawyer, Sergei Belyak, said he was "surprised that no one came to the trial to support Limonov."

"Where is the Communist Party, which pretends to be in the opposition? Where are his allies? If this were happening in Europe, every political party in the country would issue a statement. But here they don't seem to care what's happening to their colleagues," he said.

Lead prosecutor Irina Semyonova, who argued the prosecution's case in the two-day trial, said she was satisfied with the verdict.

"We have proven that the organization exists and that Limonov is its leader on the basis of publications and statements by [Limonov's] supporters," Semyonova said.

On Wednesday, Limonov insisted that the organization had ceased to exist in 2005 when the Supreme Court annulled its registration. He said he could not be the head of an organization that did not exist.

Belyak called the ruling a "farce," and vowed to appeal it to the Supreme Court.

Some 20 journalists and Limonov supporters were present at Thursday's hearing, including Limonov's wife, actress Yekaterina Volkova, and the couple's 6-month-old son.

Volkova said she was prepared for the verdict. "But it is impossible to ban an idea," she said.

State-owned newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta jumped the gun in its Thursday edition, publishing a short report on Wednesday's hearing under the headline: "There Is No Such Party: A Court Banned the NBP."

Belyak called the publication "a real slap in a face of the judicial system."

The pro-Putin youth group Young Russia issued a statement Thursday saying 100 members would demonstrate at the Prosecutor General's Office on Friday to demand that Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front and Mikhail Kasyanov's Popular Democratic Union -- both of which are part of The Other Russia coalition -- be deemed extremist.