Moscow: Russian authorities on Wednesday ramped up pressure on the opposition, searching the apartments and offices of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny ahead of new protests called for the weekend to demand his release.
Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s FBK Anti-Corruption Foundation, said police were searching flats linked to Navalny and the foundation’s offices for alleged violations of coronavirus restrictions.
Russia’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday it had launched a criminal probe into the violation of sanitary and epidemiological measures during a Moscow protest that saw thousands rally in support of Navalny on Saturday.
The ministry’s spokeswoman Irina Volk said the organisers and participants of the rally “created a threat of the spread of the novel coronavirus infection”.
Zhdanov said on Twitter that Navalny’s wife Yulia was at one of the apartments and posted a video from inside where loud hammering could be heard outside the door.
“They are not letting in my lawyer. They broke my door in,” Yulia Navalnaya yelled to journalists from out of her apartment window, an AFP journalist reported. Standing outside the apartment, her lawyer Veronika Polyakova told AFP that the police are not letting her in which is a “violation of the law”.
Searches were carried out at the homes of several other Navalny allies, Zhdanov added. Zhdanov posted a screenshot from a security camera at the office of FBK, showing several masked men there.
The foundation is best known for its investigations into the wealth of Russia’s political elite. Its most recent report suggested President Vladimir Putin was given an opulent property on the Black Sea Coast costing over $1.5 billion as a gift.
The investigation was released days after Navalny was arrested on his return on January 17 from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Russia on Saturday calling for Navalny’s release.
Source: The News