Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny’s team said Thursday Russian police have raided his regional offices and homes of dozens of his staff and supporters nationwide.
Four days earlier the United Russia Party of Russian President Vladimir Putin, holding 40 seats in Moscow’s Duma, lost 15 seats in Moscow city government elections, sparking the raids, Navalny said.
The United Russia Party’s ratings have slipped to a near-record low of about 32 percent amid growing poverty, a five-year increase in the national pension age and street protests.
Navalny organized the protests and was released from jail Aug. 23 after being locked up since July 24 on a 30-day sentence for urging the public to join a large unsanctioned anti-government protest.
More than 1,000 officers were involved in raids ostensibly connected to money-laundering charges against Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, but Navalny said the charges were politically motivated.
Masked officers with automatic weapons detained an unknown number of activists for questioning, and police seized computers and equipment from offices across Russia.
“Putin is very upset” after Moscow poll, Navalny said in an online video. “It’s clear that only Putin himself could give the order for such a large-scale operation.”
Navalny’s headquarters in Moscow were also raided by police before the elections Sunday in connection with alleged money laundering amounting to $15.3 million by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, also known as FBK.
The Investigative Committee, a Russian law-enforcement body, opened a criminal case in August against Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund over the alleged money-laundering scheme.
Navalny dismissed the accusations as an attempt to silence the work of the FBK, which has alleged high-level corruption including within Putin’s inner circle.
Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter turned political analyst, told the Vedomosti newspaper that the raids were an attempt to cripple Navalny’s network of activists before regional and governor elections take place next year across Russia.