Russia extends house arrest of Kremlin critic Navalny's spokesperson


Kira Yarmysh (R), spokesperson for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 21, 2021. Press Service of Preobrazhensky District Court of Moscow/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Wednesday ordered jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh to be held under house arrest pending trial until January next year, her lawyer and allies said.

Russia has cracked down hard on the opposition ahead of parliamentary elections in September. Most of Navalny's prominent allies have either left Russia or are facing prosecution.

Yarmysh has been under house arrest since February accused of breaching COVID-19 safety regulations at what the authorities said was an unauthorised protest in support of Navalny, a charge she says is politically-motivated.

The 31-year-old has been Navalny's spokesperson since 2014.

"They've extended her house arrest for six months! Until Jan. 6 2022," Veronika Polyakova, Yarmysh's lawyer, wrote on Twitter after the court decision.

Navalny's allies said on Twitter that the ruling looked like part of a strategy to keep opposition figures like Yarmysh under house arrest "eternally".

The Kremlin says it doesn't interfere in the work of the courts and that they are guided strictly by the letter of the law.

Navalny, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, is himself serving a 2-1/2 year jail term for parole violations related to an embezzlement conviction he says was trumped up.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)

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