Russia Raids Offices and Homes of Navalny Allies

MOSCOW — In a nationwide crackdown to prevent discontent in Moscow from spreading to far-flung regions, Russian security forces on Thursda...

MOSCOW — In a nationwide crackdown to prevent discontent in Moscow from spreading to far-flung regions, Russian security forces on Thursday raided and searched hundreds of homes and offices across the country of activists affiliated with the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny.

The raids, the biggest operation yet against Mr. Navalny and his supporters, were carried out in more than 40 cities and towns as part of a criminal money-laundering investigation announced in August by the authorities against his Anti-Corruption Foundation. The foundation has been the vanguard of recent street protests in Moscow that led to the arrests of more than 2,000 people.

Mr. Navalny issued a statement denouncing the raids as the biggest police operation, in geographical reach, in Russia’s modern history and a clear attempt to “intimidate” and “demoralize.” He said security officials from the police, the National Guard and the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., had simultaneously raided more than 200 sites in 41 towns and cities.

Also raided as part of the same investigation were the homes of activists in Golos, an independent organization that monitors elections.

Mr. Navalny, the highest-profile Russian opponent of President Vladimir V. Putin, has alarmed the authorities by trying to expand his reach beyond Moscow, traditionally a center of opposition sentiment. Mr. Putin has generally enjoyed strong support in regions where many people, unlike Muscovites, get their news primarily from state-controlled television channels that do little more than praise the president.

Mr. Putin’s allies suffered significant losses in Moscow City Council elections on Sunday, even after officials kept many opposition candidates off the ballot. But pro-Kremlin candidates performed well elsewhere, winning all 16 regional governor races despite a slow but steady decline in living standards in many parts of the country.

Leonid Volkov, a senior aide to Mr. Navalny, described Thursday’s raids as an “act of mass political repression” on his Facebook page and said that they signaled a “desperate but hopeless” effort by the authorities to stop future elections from eroding the authority of pro-Kremlin forces. Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, is so unpopular that many of its members who competed in Sunday’s elections did so as independents.

Mr. Volkov said that all of the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s 45 regional offices had been raided this week — two on Tuesday and the rest on Thursday.

The foundation, which draws much of its support from younger Russians, is the only opposition organization to have built up a network of offices and supporters across the country. The Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party of the nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky also have national networks but, while nominally in opposition, they invariably support the Kremlin.

The money-laundering case against Mr. Navalny’s organization, announced in early August, is widely viewed as transparently political. It is focused on allegations that his foundation funded its work with 1 billion rubles — around $15 million — “obtained by criminal means.”

The authorities have not detailed what those means are, but Russian law gives investigators wide leeway to classify money as criminal on the basis of trivial violations like minor flaws in paperwork.

Mr. Navalny, commenting on the raids on Twitter, posted a picture of a security officer in a helmet and a military-style uniform standing outside the apartment of Sergey Boyko, an activist in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk who competed in Sunday’s local elections.

“Boyko took third place. Now his house is being searched,” Mr. Navalny said.

Commenting on another raid, he said, “When the actions of the police do not differ from the actions of robbers.”

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Newsrust: Russia Raids Offices and Homes of Navalny Allies
Russia Raids Offices and Homes of Navalny Allies
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