Russia declares a former presidential hopeful and others as ‘foreign agents’ as it presses crackdown

The Russian authorities on Friday declared a former presidential hopeful, a prominent human rights advocate and several others to be “foreign agents,” the latest step in an unrelenting crackdown on dissent in Russia that has reached new heights since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.

Russia introduced the label in 2012, following mass antigovernment protests that authorities alleged were fueled by foreign influence. It has since been used to target nongovernmental organizations, news media and individual Kremlin critics.

The designation carries additional government scrutiny and intends to discredit those named.

Yekaterina Duntsova, a former regional legislator that sought to run against President Vladimir Putin in the 2024 election but was eventually barred was among those designated Friday.

Prisoner rights advocate Maria Litvinovich; the Way Home movement that campaigns for bringing mobilized Russian soldiers back from Ukraine and its active member Maria Andreyeva, as well as two critical news outlets were also listed.

The Kremlin’s campaign of repression reached new heights following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Moscow has effectively criminalized any criticism of the war, targeting not only prominent opposition figures who eventually received draconian prison terms, but anyone who spoke out against it.

Duntsova has campaigned for peace in Ukraine, and Litvinovich has also been vocal in her anti-war stance. Andreyeva and the Way Home have staged several protests in Moscow, demanding that the reservists called up in the 2022 “partial mobilization” be discharged and replaced with contract soldiers.

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