Allies of Russia's Navalny defiant in face of possible extremism charges

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FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Navalny attends a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Close allies of jailed Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic, pledged on Sunday to continue their actions despite the prospect of being outlawed under extremism charges.

Moscow City Court is expected to rule in a few days on a request from a Moscow prosecutor to officially outlaw the backbone of Navalny's political movement - the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) - on the grounds that it is an extremist group.

Such a ruling, if it happens, would give the authorities the legal power to arrest and jail his supporters and block their bank accounts simply for being activists in the foundation.

Leonid Volkov, chief of staff of Navalny's team, said on Sunday the group would continue its work, including investigations into corruption.

"We are not going to give up," Volkov said in an online broadcast. Volkov lives in Lithuania.

Navalny was jailed in February for 2-1/2 years on charges he called politically motivated. On Friday, he said he would start gradually ending a hunger strike after getting medical care.

Navalny's allies have pressed ahead with his "smart voting" strategy, supporting politicians outside of pro-Kremlin United Russia party they believe to be well placed to beat the ruling party candidates and urging Russians to vote for them.

Russians are set to vote in general elections in September.

"We have time, desire and strength to restructure our work, to get the smart voting to the elections and beat the United Russia," said Volkov.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Anton Zverev; Editing by Frances Kerry)