Moscow (AFP) – Russian investigators on Thursday raided dozens of regional offices of top protest leader Alexei Navalny, as well as the homes of his supporters, after mass opposition rallies this summer.
Navalny said the raids were the result of Kremlin “hysteria” after allies of President Vladimir Putin suffered major losses in local elections in Moscow on Sunday.
Navalny, who had instructed supporters to vote strategically to push out pro-Kremlin candidates, said on YouTube: “Putin got upset and is stomping his feet.”
“That’s what we’re seeing in 41 cities across the whole country,” he added, looking tired and drawn in a video hastily shot on his mobile phone.
He said the raids were carried out at more than 200 addresses in “the biggest police operation in Russia’s modern history”.
Police, investigators, national guard and security services were all involved and seized equipment such as phones and computers, he added.
Navalny has credited his strategic voting campaign for the ruling party’s loss of almost a third of its seats in the elections for Moscow city parliament.
The charismatic opposition leader said the raids targetted his network of campaign offices and the homes of campaign coordinators and their relatives, as well as his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which has worked to expose officials’ questionable wealth.
“We’re calling them raids but in fact they are more like assault and robbery,” he said later in a live appearance on his YouTube channel, adding that in each raid “first all electronics are seized, and then the person has all bank cards blocked.”
– ‘Act of intimidation’ –
One female activist was forced to undress and a male officer gawked as her bra was searched for concealed material, he said.
Law enforcement agencies have not yet made any official comment on the raids.
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh accused the authorities of attempting to deal a “massive blow” to the organisation.
“These raids are an act of intimidation,” she said.
“The police’s only goal is to confiscate our material and paralyse our work,” she said, adding: “We won’t stop.”