The accusations come from a vague Soviet-era law used to punish nonregistered groups like Baptists, evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mr. Lunkin said. The prosecutors’ office did not respond to messages seeking information about the status of the case.

In interviews last month with more than two dozen church members, none said that they had been mistreated or strained financially, and all that they could come and go freely for work or school. They said the church did not impose a financial burden on them. When the authorities searched Mr. Torop’s home, they found only 700 rubles (about $10).

Mr. Torop and his church have not been politically active or spoken out against the government. Instead, followers believe their very independence from normal Russian life is what made their church a target. “We’ve created a self-sustaining society, and our freedom is dangerous for the system,” said Aleksandr A. Komogortsev, 46, a disciple who was a police officer in Moscow for 11 years before moving to one of the biggest villages three years ago.

“We have shown how it is possible to live outside the system,” he said, gushing over a breakfast of salad and potato dumplings about how fulfilling it was to work with his hands.

Tanya Denisova, 68, a follower since 1999, said the church was focused on God’s judgment, not politics. She moved to the village in 2001, after divorcing her husband, who did not want to join the church.

“We came here to get away from politics,” she said.

Like the other faithful, Ms. Denisova eats a vegetarian diet, mostly of food grown in her large garden. Pictures of Vissarion, referred to as “the teacher,” and reproductions of his paintings hang in many rooms of her house.

Each village where followers live, like Ms. Denisova’s Petropavlovka, functions as a “united family,” with the household heads meeting each morning after a brief prayer service to discuss urgent communal work to be done for the day, and with weekly evening sessions where members of the community can solve disputes, request assistance or offer help.

At one recent meeting, members approved two new weddings after ensuring the betrothed couples were ready for marriage.

For many of the believers, their leader’s arrest, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, is a sign that Judgment Day approaches.

Others said they felt his arrest was the fulfillment of a prophecy, comparing their teacher’s plight with that of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago.

Stanislav M. Kazakov, the head of a small private school in the village of Cheremshanka, said the arrest had made the teacher more famous in Russia and abroad, which he hoped would draw more adherents.

Mr. Kazakov said his school, like other community institutions, had been subjected to repeated inspections and fines since 2019, with at least 100 students as young as 8 questioned by the police. He said the arrest and intimidation by the police had made the community stronger.

“They thought we would fall apart without him,” he said. “But in the past year, we have returned to the kind of community that holds each other together.”

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Lawyer for Navalny Is Arrested in Moscow

MOSCOW — The lead lawyer defending the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny in an extremism case that could outlaw Mr. Navalny’s opposition movement was arrested on Friday, the latest instance of a remarkable escalation by the Kremlin in its long-running campaign to stifle dissent.

The lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, was detained after Russia’s Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., raided his Moscow hotel room at 6:40 a.m., his colleagues said. He stood accused of disclosing details of a law-enforcement investigation unconnected to Mr. Navalny and faced three months of prison time. Mr. Pavlov’s colleagues said agents also searched their group’s St. Petersburg offices and broke down the apartment door of their technology manager.

Mr. Pavlov, one of Russia’s best-known human rights lawyers, has frequently represented high-profile defendants in cases involving the F.S.B., a successor to the K.G.B. that wields enormous influence in Russia. His arrest shook Russia’s activist community because lawyers have, for the most part, been able to continue to operate even as the authorities have intensified their crackdown on the opposition.

“Ivan’s arrest is connected to his professional activity,” a group of lawyers said in an open letter Friday. “We believe that these actions by law enforcement are aimed exclusively at scaring Ivan and his colleagues in order to force them to reject an active position in defending their clients.”

accused of spying for NATO last year.

Team 29 said that Mr. Pavlov was being investigated for allegedly disclosing classified details of the Safronov case to the news media.

But the raids came just four days after Mr. Pavlov took up the defense of Mr. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure. On Monday, Team 29 announced it would be representing Mr. Navalny’s organizations in a lawsuit filed in April by Moscow prosecutors to have the organizations outlawed as extremist groups.

said they were shutting down their nationwide network of 40 regional offices.

The crackdown on dissent has accompanied rising tensions between Russia and the West, leaving regular Russians increasingly isolated from the outside world. In response to the April 15 American sanctions against Russia over hacking and other “harmful foreign activities,” Russia countered by, among other things, prohibiting the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from employing people who are not American citizens.

The U.S. Embassy said on Friday that the move had forced it to lay off three quarters of its consular staff. As a result, the embassy said, it would stop processing nearly all nonimmigrant visa requests in Russia, such as for tourism or work travel.

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

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Navalny’s Group Is Disbanding Its Network in Russia

MOSCOW — Associates of Aleksei A. Navalny have been forced to disband the imprisoned Russian opposition leader’s network of 40 regional offices, one of his top aides said Thursday, a step that pushes the domestic resistance to President Vladimir V. Putin further underground.

The move was inevitable, Mr. Navalny’s aide, Leonid Volkov, said in a YouTube video, amid the Kremlin’s latest efforts to stifle political dissent. Moscow prosecutors on April 16 announced that they would seek a court ruling to have Mr. Navalny’s movement declared an extremist organization, and the court quickly ordered Mr. Navalny’s groups to halt all public activity, including participating in political campaigns or referendums.

“Alas, we must be honest: it’s impossible to work under these conditions,” Mr. Volkov said, warning that continuing to operate would expose Navalny supporters to criminal prosecution. “We are officially disbanding the network of Navalny offices.”

Mr. Volkov predicted that while some offices would close, others would transform into independent political entities engaged in local politics. Either way, the end of Mr. Navalny’s nationwide network — from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Vladivostok on the Pacific — represented the end of an era in Russian politics.

February conviction for defamation of a World War II veteran that resulted in an $11,500 fine. The court denied the appeal.

It was Mr. Navalny’s first public appearance since he started his hunger strike demanding better medical treatment.

Mr. Navalny ended the hunger strike last week after 24 days, saying his demands had been partially met. On the courtroom video screens, Mr. Navalny appeared gaunt, but as he talked over the judge’s attempts to interrupt his closing statement, his voice sounded nearly as forceful as it was in his dramatic courtroom appearances earlier this year.

Mr. Putin, Mr. Navalny said, was trying to wrap himself in the glory of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II in order to justify his effort to stay in power.

“Your king with no clothes has stolen the banner of victory and is trying to fashion it into a thong for himself,” Mr. Navalny said, addressing the judge, according to a recording of his speech published by the BBC’s Russian-language service. “All your authorities are occupiers and traitors.”

splashy corruption investigations published on YouTube, the local offices highlighted what they described as theft and injustice carried out by local officials.

“Most will continue their work as self-sufficient, independent, regional civic and political movements, with strong people at the helm,” Mr. Volkov said of the offices. “This means that everything we have done together up until now will not have been for naught.”

Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation continues to operate, though prosecutors are also seeking to have it outlawed as extremist. Some of Mr. Navalny’s associates are keeping the foundation running from outside Russia; on Wednesday, they published a video disclosing what they said were the salaries of Mr. Navalny’s loudest critics on RT, the Russian state-funded television network.

Prosecutors have for years harried Mr. Navalny and other opposition figures, but usually under pretexts like violating rules on public gatherings, laws unrelated to their political activities or more recently regulations against gatherings to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

That approach provided a pretense of legal acceptance for political dissent, which is guaranteed under Russia’s 1993 post-Soviet Constitution. But this month’s effort to declare Mr. Navalny’s movement “extremist” has been distinct for directly targeting the political activity of Mr. Navalny’s nongovernmental organizations.

Hearings in the extremism case are continuing this week — behind closed doors, because the evidence has been deemed classified. When they announced the case this month, the prosecutors argued that Mr. Navalny’s groups were seditious organizations disguised as a political movement. In a news release, prosecutors said that “under the guise of liberal slogans these organizations are busy forming conditions for destabilizing the social and sociopolitical situation.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.

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Navalny’s Group Is Shutting all Its Offices in Russia

MOSCOW — Associates of Aleksei A. Navalny have been forced to disband the imprisoned Russian opposition leader’s network of 40 regional offices, one of his top aides said Thursday, a step that pushes the domestic resistance to President Vladimir V. Putin further underground.

The move was inevitable, Mr. Navalny’s aide, Leonid Volkov, said in a YouTube video, amid the Kremlin’s latest efforts to stifle political dissent. Moscow prosecutors on April 16 announced that they would seek a court ruling to have Mr. Navalny’s movement declared an extremist organization, and the court quickly ordered Mr. Navalny’s groups to halt all public activity, including participating in political campaigns or referendums.

“Alas, we must be honest: It’s impossible to work under these conditions,” Mr. Volkov said, warning that continuing to operate would expose Navalny supporters to criminal prosecution. “We are officially disbanding the network of Navalny offices.”

Mr. Volkov predicted that while some offices would close, others would transform into independent political entities engaged in local politics. Either way, the end of Mr. Navalny’s nationwide network — from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Vladivostok on the Pacific — represented the end of an era in Russian politics.

splashy corruption investigations published on YouTube, the local offices highlighted what they described as theft and injustice carried out by local officials.

“Most will continue their work as self-sufficient, independent, regional civic and political movements, with strong people at the helm,” Mr. Volkov said of the offices. “This means that everything we have done together up until now will not have been for naught.”

February conviction for defamation of a World War II veteran that resulted in an $11,500 fine. It was his first public appearance since he started his hunger strike demanding better medical treatment.

Mr. Navalny ended the hunger strike last week after 24 days, saying his demands had been partially met. On the courtroom video screens Thursday, Mr. Navalny appeared gaunt, but as he talked over the judge’s attempts to interrupt his closing statement, his voice sounded nearly as forceful as it was in his dramatic courtroom appearances earlier this year.

Mr. Putin, Mr. Navalny said, was trying to wrap himself in the glory of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II in order to justify his effort to stay in power.

“Your king with no clothes has stolen the banner of victory and is trying to fashion it into a thong for himself,” Mr. Navalny said, addressing the judge, according to a recording of his speech published by the BBC Russian Service. “All your authorities are occupiers and traitors.”

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Russia Suspends Public Activity by Navalny’s Political Groups

MOSCOW — Prosecutors in President Vladimir V. Putin’s government ordered an immediate halt on Monday to all public activity by Aleksei A. Navalny’s political groups, in one of the more sweeping legal moves against the Russian opposition in recent years.

Previously, prosecutors had targeted Mr. Navalny and other opposition figures mostly on pretexts, such as accusations they had violated rules for public gatherings, laws unrelated to politics or more recently restrictions on public meetings because of the coronavirus.

The order issued on Monday differed from those precedents in that it directly targeted the opposition groups for what are usually seen as political activities.

It was the latest move in a long cat-and-mouse battle between Mr. Putin and Mr. Navalny. The opposition leader has led an anti-corruption drive that has frustrated and embarrassed the Russian leader for years, despite unrelenting pressure from the Russian authorities.

wrote on Twitter, referring to a voting strategy in which the opposition coalesces around the single strongest candidate in a given race.

Though overshadowed by the assassination attempt on Mr. Navalny last year and his imprisonment and hunger strike this spring, the legal onslaught against his movement also carries potentially far-reaching implications. Mr. Putin’s system of governance is sometimes called a “soft authoritarian” approach because it allows open opposition and more internet freedoms than in China.

Other political parties exist in Russia that are ostensibly in the opposition, but in fact they back Mr. Putin and most of his policies while criticizing officials lower down the pecking order, such as regional governors. The order singled out Mr. Navalny’s nongovernmental groups — he has not been allowed to form a legal political party — for posing a risk to “the interests of the Russian Federation.”

The evidence in the case has been classified. The order, which was published online by Mr. Navalny’s aides, said the ban covering three of Mr. Navalny’s nongovernmental organizations could be appealed but would otherwise be in effect until a court ruling that might make it permanent.

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After Testing the World’s Limits, Putin Steps Back From the Brink

On Thursday, Mr. Putin’s defense minister announced a partial pullback of troops, a step welcomed by Ukraine’s president in a nervous Kyiv. Mr. Putin held out an olive branch to President Biden by appearing at his online climate summit. And on Friday, Mr. Navalny said his hunger strike demanding better medical care had “achieved enough” after he was examined twice by civilian doctors.

“No matter how much the system tries to show itself to be a deaf-mute, thousand-ton monolith, it in fact continues to react to pressure from inside and outside,” a top aide to Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov, posted on Twitter.

In Mr. Medvedev’s article interpreting the week’s events published on Friday morning, he compared the current state of world affairs to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war. The problem today, unlike the original Cold War war, he wrote, was that the United States no longer respected Russia’s strength.

“If the consequences of victory are so great that they put in question the continued existence of the victor, then this is not a victory,” Mr. Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Mr. Putin’s Security Council, wrote in a not-so-veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

A risk of Mr. Putin’s escalatory approach to foreign policy is that he may need to up the ante to achieve the desired effect. That was the case with Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine. While the war in eastern Ukraine has lasted since 2014, with Moscow sending arms and men to the separatists it backs, the Kremlin had not since the outset of hostilities threatened as explicitly to openly invade Ukraine as it did in recent weeks.

Mr. Pavlovsky, who advised the Kremlin until 2011, compares Mr. Putin’s system to a ratchet: a mechanism that, even with occasional pauses, can only turn in one direction.

“When the system is all built on the principle of escalation, it cannot pull back in earnest,” he said.

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Aleksei Navalny, Putin’s Nemesis, Ends Hunger Strike

MOSCOW — Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, ended a three-week hunger strike on Friday that had embarrassed the Kremlin, drew international criticism and sparked protests at home.

The 24-day hunger strike, which Mr. Navalny said had left him so skinny he looked like a “skeleton, swaying, walking in its cell,” became the latest battle in a yearslong, high-stakes competition between President Vladimir V. Putin and his most prominent domestic political opponent.

Mr. Putin refuses even to speak Mr. Navalny’s name while the police and prosecutors harry his political organization with arrests and, this month, a move to ban it outright. Mr. Navalny is serving a prison sentence of more than two years for a parole violation of a conviction he says was politically motivated.

But even in prison he managed to confound Mr. Putin with a quandary: either concede to his demands for medical treatment by his personal doctors or risk creating a martyr.

slickly produced videos exposing corruption at the highest ranks. He routinely refers to Mr. Putin’s United Russia party as a gang of “crooks and thieves.”

Mr. Navalny has also continued to set the agenda for the political opposition ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall. His organization turned out tens of thousands of street protesters on Wednesday, stealing some of the limelight from Mr. Putin’s annual state of the nation address.

treat health problems that possibly stemmed from his poisoning with a chemical weapon last year.

Novichok, a rare nerve agent only manufactured in Russia and the Soviet Union before it broke up, had been placed in his underwear in a hotel room last August. At the time, he was organizing his political group for local elections. The Kremlin denied any role in the poisoning.

Mr. Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany in a coma, recovered and returned to Russia in January, where he was arrested at the airport.

In prison, he reported back pain and numbness in his legs and arms. Earlier this month, tests showed signs of possible kidney failure that could lead to a lethal irregularity in Mr. Navalny’s heartbeat, his doctors said.

Prison authorities never allowed access for Mr. Navalny’s personal doctor. They did move him from his cell, first to a prison hospital then a civilian hospital, and this week allowed specialists to examine him.

“Doctors whom I fully trust made a statement that we have achieved enough for me to stop my fast,” Mr. Navalny said in a statement posted on his Instagram account on Friday. He said doctors had also advised him that if he continued the hunger strike, “there will be nobody left to treat.”

Mr. Navalny said he also broke his fast because some supporters had announced hunger strikes in solidarity with him, and he did not want to risk their health.

statement Thursday outlining the health care prison authorities had allowed after his transfer to a civilian hospital, including examinations by independent neurologists. The doctors said they had also received access to his test results, partially fulfilling the demands of the hunger strike.

state of the nation speech a hopeful message of economic growth as the country emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of the day, police had detained nearly 1,500 demonstrators nationwide.

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Aleksei Navalny, Russian Opposition Leader, Ends Hunger Strike

MOSCOW — Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, announced Friday that he had ended a more than three-week hunger strike on the recommendation of his doctors, saying that he had partially achieved his goals.

Isolated behind prison walls and with his health failing amid fears of lingering effects from a poisoning with a chemical weapon last year, Mr. Navalny had demanded treatment from doctors of his choosing. He began the hunger strike on March 31.

The prison authorities never allowed access for Mr. Navalny’s personal doctor. They did provide medical treatment, first at a prison hospital then a civilian hospital, and then this week allowed specialists to examine him.

“Doctors whom I fully trust made a statement that we have achieved enough for me to stop my fast,” Mr. Navalny said in a statement posted on his Instagram account.

ill treatment in prison.

Mr. Navalny said doctors had advised him to halt his hunger strike because, if he continued, “there will be nobody left to treat.”

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Putin Warns of a Russian ‘Red Line’ the West Will Regret Crossing

MOSCOW — He warned ominously of “red lines” in Russia’s security that, if crossed, would bring a powerful “asymmetric” response. He reminded Western leaders once again of the fearsomeness of his country’s modernized nuclear arsenal. And he boasted of Russia’s moral superiority over the West.

Yet even as President Vladimir V. Putin lashed out at foreign enemies real or perceived in a state-of-the-nation speech on Wednesday, tens of thousands of Russians defied a heavy police presence to pour into the streets to challenge his rule. In Moscow, some gathered across the street from the Kremlin to chant, “Go Away!”

It was a snapshot of Russia in the third decade of Mr. Putin’s rule: a leader facing an increasingly angry and desperate opposition but firmly in power with his country’s vast resources and huge security apparatus at his disposal.

an enormous troop buildup on Russia’s border with Ukraine and has gone toe to toe with President Biden, who issued a new round of sanctions last week, undeterred by Mr. Putin’s saber rattling in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin portrayed Russia as harried by Western nations for years with hypocritical criticism and sanctions. Punishing Russia, he said, has become a “new sport” in the West, and he was running thin on patience.

While he pledged on Wednesday that he still wanted “good relations with all participants of international society,” he said that if Russia is forced to defend its interests from any security threats its response would be “fast and tough.”

the prison treatment of the prominent opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny seemed to be mushrooming into something more.

Thousands were arrested at those protests this winter, which came after Mr. Navalny’s return to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for a poisoning with a chemical weapon.

Riot police officers were out in force on Wednesday. While it appeared that they sought to avoid scenes of brutality that could cast a shadow over Mr. Putin’s speech, the police did detain nearly 1,500 demonstrators nationwide.

Protesters stood on the sidewalks across the street from the exhibition hall next to the Kremlin where Mr. Putin had spoken a few hours earlier. They chanted “Go away!” — referring to Mr. Putin; and “Release him!” — referring to Mr. Navalny.

“I didn’t come out concretely because of Aleksei Navalny, I came out more for myself,” said Svetlana Kosatkina, a 64-year-old real estate agent. “I can’t stand this whole situation of lawlessness and just total humiliation.”

a hunger strike and said by his lawyer to be near death, Mr. Navalny this week wrote in a letter to his allies that he had grown so thin he resembled a “skeleton walking, swaying in his cell.”

Police detained dozens of opposition activists earlier on Wednesday, including Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and a top lieutenant in his political organization, Lyubov Sobol. To curb turnout at protests, universities compelled students to sit for unscheduled exams, TV Rain, an independent news station, reported on Tuesday.

Mr. Putin’s speech was closely watched for hints of his intentions in Ukraine, after massing the largest military force on the border since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

highest per capita in the world.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and earlier military interventions in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s allies had also erupted in fury when President Biden in an interview last month agreed with a characterization of Mr. Putin as a “killer.” In Wednesday’s speech, Mr. Putin lingered on a grievance that has not gained much traction outside Russian state news media: an accusation that the C.I.A. had been plotting an assassination of its own, targeting President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, a Russian ally.

Over the weekend, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, arrested two men who it said had coordinated with American and Polish intelligence agencies to plot the murder of Mr. Lukashenko. This, Mr. Putin said, “crossed all the boundaries.”

In Mr. Putin’s telling, Russia, far from pursuing a militaristic policy, has been the victim of a Western scheme to contain and hobble the country. “They attack Russia here and there without any reason,” Mr. Putin said. He cited Rudyard Kipling’s novel “Jungle Book” with a comparison of the United States to Shere Khan, a villainous tiger, nipping at Russia.

And Mr. Putin lingered on descriptions of Russia’s modernized arsenal of atomic weapons. These include a hypersonic cruise missile, called the Dagger, and a nuclear torpedo, called the Poseidon. The torpedo, Russian officials have said, is designed to set off a radioactive tsunami.

The foreign policy message was a stark warning, said Andrei A. Klimov, deputy chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Russian Senate.

“We aren’t joking any longer,” Mr. Klimov said. ““We won’t every day tell our opponents they will be punished. But when it comes, they will understand.”

Anton Troianovski contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine and Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow.

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Putin Says Any Nation That Threatens Russia’s Security Will ‘Regret Their Deeds’

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday delivered an annual address replete with threats against the West but, despite intense tensions with Ukraine, stopped short of announcing new military or foreign policy moves.

Russia’s response will be “asymmetric, fast and tough” if it is forced to defend its interests, Mr. Putin said, pointing to what he claimed were Western efforts at regime change in neighboring Belarus as another threat to Russia’s security.

He pledged that Russia “wants to have good relations with all participants of international society,” even as he noted that Russia’s modernized nuclear weapons systems were at the ready.

“The organizers of any provocations threatening the fundamental interests of our security will regret their deeds more than they have regretted anything in a long time,” Mr. Putin told a hall of governors and members of Parliament. “I hope no one gets the idea to cross the so-called red line with Russia — and we will be the ones to decide where it runs in every concrete case.”

that could be prepared to move into neighboring Ukraine.

In Washington, the Biden administration reacted mildly to Mr. Putin’s tough words.

“We don’t take anything President Putin says personally,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said when asked for a response. “We have tough skin.”

Asked if the sharpened rhetoric from Mr. Putin would affect the prospects for a possible meeting with President Biden later this year, Ms. Psaki said discussions were ongoing. “Obviously,” she said, “it requires all parties having an agreement that we’re going to have a meeting and we issued that invitation.”

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