News / Europe

Russian Police Raid Opposition Leaders' Homes Ahead of Protest

Russian police officers guard the entrance of the building where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny resides during a police search in Moscow, June 11, 2012.
Russian police officers guard the entrance of the building where Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny resides during a police search in Moscow, June 11, 2012.
James Brooke
MOSCOW - Just a month after he began a new six-year term, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues a crackdown on dissent. 

Russian police raided the apartments of top opposition leaders in Moscow on Monday, the day before a mass rally is to take place against President Putin.

Armed with assault rifles, investigative police raided 10 homes and offices.  They said they were looking for evidence surrounding the last big anti-Putin rally.

Staged the day before Putin's May 7 presidential inauguration, that rally ended in violence with 20 policemen injured and 436 protesters detained.

Democratic Russia Committee Director Natalia Pelevine says the raids were designed to intimidate opposition leaders and their supporters.

"They are trying to confiscate electronic equipment, probably computers and DVDs and any device that can hold information pretty much.  We know they are confiscating that at this moment," Pelevine said.

In the raids, police beat down the doors of two of the best known leaders of the younger generation of democracy protesters, internet blogger Alexei Navalny and television hostess Ksenia Sobchak.

Later, a police source told Interfax that police confiscated nearly $1,900,000 from Sobchak's apartment.

Sobchak tweeted of the raid: "People burst in at 8 o'clock in the morning, they were stopping me from putting my clothes on.  They robbed the apartment.  They humiliated me."

Liberal political figures condemned the raids, which took part on a Russian holiday.  

Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said the raid showed that "radicals" are gaining strength in the Kremlin.  A group of liberal Duma members issued a statement comparing them to secret police raids that routinely took place before opposition actions in the times of Russia's last czar, Nicholas II.

A former Duma member who is forming an opposition party, Mark Feygin, says President Putin is very fearful of Moscow street protests growing out of control.  In the March presidential election, Putin did not win Moscow.

Feygin says the raids were designed to keep main opposition leaders from speaking at Tuesday's rally.  Police have asked about six of the top leaders to report for questioning one hour before the rally is to start.

Pelevine also says the timing is purely political.

"Basically, they are trying to get the opposition out of the way, and to make sure the protest tomorrow [Tuesday] does not happen," Pelevine said.

Putin signed a law Friday that dramatically raised penalties for unauthorized rallies.  Under the new law, someone caught participating in an unauthorized political rally will face a fine of up to $9,000, the equivalent of the average one-year salary in Russia.

Tuesday's rally is authorized and Moscow city officials have granted a permit for a march and rally for up to 50,000 participants.

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Comments
     
by: Alex Smith from: Russia
June 12, 2012 7:06 AM
15-00 p.m. 12.06.12. It is very rainy and there is thunderstorm in the Moscow (Russia). Bad situation for opposition.

by: Alex Smith from: Russia
June 12, 2012 6:42 AM
300000 rub (app. 10000 $) is max fine by new Law. So, there is also 30000 rub (app. 1000 $ ) fine for one "wrong doing". What is the reason of adopting such "severe Law"? I think they (Big power) fear of "protests growing out of control" very much. And yet. It is a bad manner to "Raid Opposition Leaders' Homes". It is possible to stole information about participants before action. Am I wrong?

by: Malek Towghi/Tauqee from: USA
June 11, 2012 6:44 PM
By going the Stalin-KGB way, Putin will be doing a disservice to the great Russian people and to the whole civilized world.

by: Mike
June 11, 2012 4:41 PM
Today the U.S. State Department spokesman expressed concern about searches in the apartments of Russian opposition. Concerns expressed by Victoria Nuland is not enough. Comrade Putin spat at her from a high mountain. And if so, what are needed: 1. U.S. officials must recognize the illegitimacy of the regime of Russia, with all of the ensuing economic and political consequences, and 2. Europe should begin to carry out the same policy towards Russia which it holds in relation to the Belarusian dictator Lukashenko. 3.Magnitsky Act should be expanded to include all of Russia's leadership, headed by Putin, with the condition of the arrest of all bank accounts outside of Russia.

by: Gennady from: Russian Federation, Volga
June 11, 2012 10:12 AM
The world witnesses as illegitimate “President” Putin has launched unprecedented campaign of intimidating leaders and all Russia fighting for the restoration of basic human rights, Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen stipulated in articles 17.1,22.1,27, 29.1,29.5,31, 56.1 of Russian Constitution. God help Russia get free of Putin & his cronies!

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