'Biggest police operation': Navalny supporters targeted in raids

More than 200 locations were searched by police targeting supporters of Putin's opponent.

    Police told people the searches were related to a money-laundering investigation into Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation [Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters]
    Police told people the searches were related to a money-laundering investigation into Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation [Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters]

    Russian law enforcement officers have conducted a number of raids at the offices and homes of supporters of Alexei Navalny, a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin's government.

    More than 200 locations were searched by police in what Navalny called the biggest crackdown of its kind in modern Russian history.

    "Putin is very angry and is stamping his feet," Navalny said in a video released on Thursday.

    "I congratulate you. Today, the biggest police operation is modern Russian history is taking place."

    Leonid Volkov, another senior Navalny ally, published a list of towns and cities where activists had been targeted.

    "The state has two tasks - to frighten and steal," wrote Volkov. "It’s obvious that the aim of this operation is to destroy our headquarters structure and to obstruct the work of our [regional] headquarters." 

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    Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, said the scale and nature of the latest raids were unprecedented.

    People whose homes and offices were being raided were told by police the searches were related to a money-laundering investigation into Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organisation that has published embarrassing investigations into what it says is the wrongdoing of corrupt officials.

    State investigators last month opened a criminal investigation into the alleged laundering of one billion rubles ($15m) by Navalny's foundation.

    The state also froze a number of bank accounts linked to the foundation, a move Navalny’s allies said was a trumped-up attempt to cripple his political movement.

    Alleged poisoning

    The 43-year-old Navalny has long been a thorn in the side of the Kremlin. In July, he was arrested as he left his home to go jogging and buy flowers for his wife's birthday.

    He was sentenced to 30 days in jail calling for people to demonstrate over the exclusion of opposition candidates from the Moscow election.

    The authorities' refusal to register opposition candidates, including some of Navalny’s allies, on technical grounds triggered the biggest sustained protest movement in Russia since 2011-2013 with up to 60,000 people demonstrating at one point.

    During his incarceration, he was treated in hospital for what doctors called a "severe allergic reaction", while Navalny said he might have been poisoned.

    As he enters his third decade in power, Putin's approval ratings have dropped significantly and critics say the authorities fear any outlet calling for wider political change.

    During a visit to France on Monday, Putin spoke publicly about the movement for the first time, vowing to prevent the emergence of any mass demonstrations in Moscow like the "yellow vest" anti-government protests that erupted in France late last year.

    Navalny and Russia's crackdown on critical voices

    The Listening Post

    Navalny and Russia's crackdown on critical voices

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies