Hundreds of raids on Russian opposition activists across 41 cities

Law enforcement agents across Russia have raided more than 200 homes and offices of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters days after his tactical voting campaign embarrassed the ruling party in regional elections.

At 6am Moscow time on Thursday, FSB agents, investigators, police and national guardsmen searched Navalny campaign headquarters in 41 cities, confiscating computers, mobile phones and other electronics in the most wide-ranging law enforcement operation in recent history, the activist said.

Mr Navalny opened offices in 45 cities before he was barred from running against Vladimir Putin for president last year.

Agents also raided the homes of more than 150 of Mr Navalny’s employees and supporters, he said, as well as a few activists with no connection to him, and banks have begun blocking many of their bank accounts.

These were only the latest searches in a money laundering case opened against Mr Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation during an August 3 protest in Moscow, one of several huge demonstrations against the refusal to register nearly two dozen liberal opposition candidates for the Moscow city council race.

Investigators suspect the foundation, which publicly investigates top officials’ wealth, of laundering almost £1 million but have not specified what criminal activities the money came from, according to case documents posted by Mr Navalny.

The activist called the raids an intimidation attack over his “smart voting” campaign, which called on people to cast their ballot on Sunday for communists and other registered candidates that had the best chance of beating United Russia.

The ruling party kept its majority but nonetheless lost 13 seats on the Moscow city council, as well as seats on lawmaking bodies in a dozen regions.

“If we stop whining and doubting our strength and work hard registering people for smart voting, in a few electoral cycles there won’t be any United Russia,” Mr Navalny wrote. “That’s what today’s searches are directed at, to frighten, demoralise, and force us to give up collective actions.”

Law enforcement also raided the flats of Golos independent electoral observers in two cities.

The authorities arrested more than 2,700 people at this summer’s protests and have been cracking down on dissent.

Last week, four protesters were given multiyear prison sentences for paltry offences like trying to pull down a riot policeman’s visor, and a fifth was imprisoned for writing a threatening tweet about police officer’s families.

During Thursday’s searches, agents reportedly overturned many offices. Mr Navalny’s Perm headquarters said masked men had climbed into its deserted office through the window and broken down the steel door from inside, then confiscated two laptops, a tablet PC and a desktop computer.

The office had previously been searched just two days before. Law enforcement searched the home of the office director’s mother, confiscating a new phone he had given her for her birthday yesterday, it said.

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