A Moscow court has ordered the closure of Russia's oldest human rights organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group, silencing another respected institution amid a political crackdown.

The judge with the Moscow City Court granted a justice ministry request to "dissolve" the rights group, the court announced in a statement.

The Moscow Helsinki Group said it would appeal the decision.

The decision is the latest in a series of legal rulings against organisations critical of the Kremlin, a trend that intensified after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine last year.

The Moscow Helsinki Group was created in 1976 when Russia was part of the Soviet Union and had been considered to be Russia's oldest rights group.

For decades it was headed by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who became a symbol of resistance in Russia and who died in 2018.

When Ms Alexeyeva - the doyenne of Russia's rights movement - celebrated her 90th birthday, Mr Putin visited her at home, bringing her flowers.

Vladimir Putin and Lyudmila Alexeyeva pictured in 2017

"I am grateful to you for everything that you have done for a huge number of people in our country for many, many years," Mr Putin told her at the time.

The justice ministry had accused the rights group of breaching its legal status by carrying out activities such as observing trials outside the Moscow region.

Before Mr Putin sent troops into Ukraine, Russia dissolved another pillar of the country's rights movement, Memorial.

That group emerged as a symbol of hope during Russia's chaotic transition to democracy in the early 1990s and was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize less than a year after it was ordered to shut down.

The Russian government has been using an array of laws to stifle critics, for example imposing prison terms of up to 15 years for spreading "false information" about the military.

Most top opposition figures are now either in prison or exiled.