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Pro-Navalny protest in Moscow last week. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Russian court on Monday approved a request by prosecutors to suspend all activities at the regional headquarters of Alexei Navalny's political organization, pending a ruling on whether to label his networks as "extremist."

Why it matters: It's the latest and most sweeping attempt by the Russian state to crack down on the influence of the imprisoned opposition leader, who recently ended a three-week hunger strike after warnings from doctors that he could die within days.

The big picture: Navalny's imprisonment on charges of violating his parole, which came after he spent months in Germany recovering from an attempted poisoning by Russia's security services, has galvanized mass protests and international condemnation.

Between the lines: Amnesty International has said that an extremist designation for Navalny's political and anti-corruption groups would represent "one of the most serious blows for the rights to freedom of expression and association in Russia’s post-Soviet history.”

  • It would put the networks on par with the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the eyes of the Russian authorities, according to the Washington Post.
  • Members could be arrested, and those who donate to the group or spread its videos — which expose the corruption of Russian politicians and have gained millions of views online — could be accused of supporting terrorism.

What to watch: Court proceedings begin on Monday, but evidence in the case has been kept hidden because it contains state secrets, prosecutors claim.

What they're saying: “It reminds me of Soviet trials when someone was declared a spy or foreign agent and then there would be a secret closed trial,” Anti-Corruption Foundation director Ivan Zhdanov, who fled Russia earlier this year, told the Post. “Putin is trying to take Russia back into the Soviet past.”

Go deeper

Apr 25, 2021 - World

Russia could move to ban Alexei Navalny's opposition networks

Alexey Navalny at a rally in 2019. Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Moscow court is expected to ban opposition leader Alexei Navalny's political and anti-corruption networks on Monday, effectively labeling them as extremist organizations, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Often described as "the man Putin fears most," Navalny has been a thorn in President Vladimir Putin's side for years. If all goes to plan, Monday's ruling at closed-door court hearing will be "he most sweeping attempt to crush the Kremlin's greatest political threat," per the Post.

Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial

Sarah Palin. Photo: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, delaying the start of her defamation trial against the New York Times.

Why it matters: The trial will be closely watched, as it's a rare instance of a major media company defending its editorial practices before an American jury.

S&P 500 slides into correction territory

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their worst drop of the year, pushing the S&P 500 on track to fall into a "correction."

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading.