Russian raids target opposition leader
Russian authorities have staged nationwide raids on the regional offices of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as well as the homes of dozens of staff and supporters, his team said Thursday.
Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, said on Twitter that police had raided both the offices of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund and private residences.
Navalny said more than 200 searches had taken place at addresses across 41 cities, indirectly comparing the sweep to mass arrests during the height of Soviet repression.
“What is the record from which year? Since 1937?” he wrote on Twitter.
Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, tweeted that bank accounts of some activists had apparently been blocked.
Volkov said security forces had searched “not only the apartments of the coordinators and headquarters, but also the apartments of headquarters staff and active volunteers; in some cases they came to their relatives at their registered addresses.”
OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group which compiles reports on arrests and detentions of political activists, said offices of Navalny had been raided in more than two dozen regions of Russia, from Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East to Arkhangelsk in the Arctic region.
The raids come after Navalny, who is Russia’s most outspoken opposition figure, claimed a tactical victory in Moscow municipal elections.
He had called for a strategy of “Smart Voting” that urged voters to cast ballots for candidates likely to unseat candidates from the ruling United Russia party.
The party, which supports Russian President Vladimir Putin, lost almost a third of its seats in the vote.
‘Biggest police operation’
Navalny claimed the raids were motivated by Kremlin “hysteria” over the electoral loss in Moscow, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. “Putin got upset and is stomping his feet,” he added on a YouTube video shot on a phone.
He said the police, investigators, national guard and security services were involved in the raids, seizing equipment in “the biggest police operation in Russia’s modern history.”
The raids come after top Russian law-enforcement body, the Investigative Committee, opened a criminal case in August against Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund over an alleged money-laundering scheme.
The Investigative Committee has yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The case was opened amid a wave of street protests organized by Navalny; activists say the move was politically motivated.
“Well, it seems to me that the fact that this happens immediately after the elections and the triumph of Smart Voting answers all questions at once; both ‘who is to blame’ and ‘what is to be done,'” Volkov said.