12 Sep 2019 12:50

Navalny supporters say dozens of searches underway in regions across Russia

MOSCOW. Sept 12 (Interfax) - The head of the network of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny's regional headquarters, Leonid Volkov, has said that law enforcement agencies are conducting searches at 20 such offices on Thursday.

"Searches simultaneously began at more than 60 locations in more than 20 cities this morning. [Police] have visited the homes of all coordinators and even their relatives on many occasions, the homes of the headquarters' volunteers, and of course, the offices themselves," Volkov wrote on Twitter.

Volkov said that he is speaking about Navalny's headquarters in Cheboksary, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Lipetsk, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Penza, Orenburg, Kurgan, Saratov, Balakovo, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk, Chelyabinsk, Belgorod, Tomsk, Krasnodar, Tambov, Izhevsk, and Tyumen.

The searches are being carried out as part of a money-laundering case opened against the Anti-Corruption Foundation(FBK), Volkov said, adding that police are seizing office equipment.

Agora human rights group head Pavel Chikov said later that such searches were underway in 29 cities.

"Several locations - up to 5-7, including offices, houses, and apartments - are being searched in each city. It's not only [the homes of] staff members of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny's headquarters, but also activists of Golos [a movement advocating voters' rights]. In all, more than 100 searches are simultaneously being conducted," Chikov wrote on his Telegram channel.

A spokesperson for Navalny's headquarters in Novosibirsk said that law enforcement agencies were conducting a search at the headquarters of former mayoral candidate Sergei Boiko, who is the coordinator of Navalny's Novosibirsk headquarters.

"Searches are currently underway both at the headquarters and Boiko's apartment," the spokesperson said.

In turn, Navalny's headquarters in Kemerovo, Omsk and Tomsk said on their websites that searches were being conducted at the homes of their activists.

"Police are searching the homes of all employees of the headquarters and also the homes of their relatives. The motive behind these searches is the same - the 'money-laundering case', which previously saw searches at the FBK and the headquarters in other cities as well," Navalny's headquarters in Omsk said.

According to reports, Moscow's Basmanny Court issued 94 search warrants on September 4, 2019, authorizing these searches.

Searches are also being conducted at Navalny's headquarters in Irkutsk and the homes of his supporters in the city, headquarters volunteer Sergei Bespalov told Interfax.

"Searches are underway both at the headquarters and the homes of headquarters employees - at least four volunteers," he said.

Former coordinator of Navalny's Barnaul headquarters Artyom Kosaretsky said on social networks that his home was being searched.

"A search is being carried out at my home as part of the case opened into the funding of Navalny's headquarters. My relatives are being interviewed," Kosaretsky said.

Police are also searching the apartment of Navalny headquarters coordinator in Yekaterinburg Yury Kuzmin, the opposition activist's supporters said.

"I believe that it's related to the money laundering case... Most likely, searches are being conducted at the homes of key coordinators as part of this case," local headquarters volunteer Viktor Barmin told Interfax.

Barmin said that Kuzmin cannot be reached by phone at the moment.

A search is being conducted at the home of the coordinator and an employee of Navalny's headquarters in Tyumen.

"Police have searched the home of Navalny headquarters coordinator in Tyumen Ivan Vostrikov and the home of headquarters employee Sergei Oskolkov," the opposition activist's local headquarters said on its Telegram channel.

A search is also being carried out at the home of Navalny headquarters coordinator in Chelyabinsk Alexei Mezyayev, the local headquarters said on its Telegram channel.

"The home of our coordinator Alexei Mezyayev is being searched. We are trying to find out the details," it said.

Searches were also reported at Navalny's regional headquarters in several cities of the Volga Federal District. Perm headquarters coordinator Sergei Ukhov told Interfax that police had visited the local headquarters on Thursday morning. According to Ukhov, police are also trying to access his apartment and the apartment of another supporter, Yury Bobrov.

Navalny's supporters in Nizhny Novgorod have reported searches in the city as well.

"The homes of his supporters are being searched. Office equipment and documents are being seized," Navalny's headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod said on Twitter.

Police are also searching the home of journalist Alexander Nikishin, the coordinator of the Golos office in Saratov, and the home of headquarters volunteer Olga Kuznetsova, the local headquarters said on social networks.

Investigators are also searching the home of Navalny's headquarters coordinator in Kazan Elvira Dmitriyeva and headquarters activist Oleg Yemelyanov on Thursday, headquarters member Danil Nurgaleyev told Interfax.

"The searches began at around 6:30 a.m. They are taking place at their homes. They are most likely related to the money-laundering case against the FBK," Nurgaleyev said.

A search is underway at the home of Golos head in Tatarstan Mikhail Tikhonov.

"He can't be reached by phone at the moment. His lawyers are on their way to see him," he said.

The home of the coordinator of Navalny's headquarters in Kurgan was searched as well.

"The home of our coordinator Alexei Shvarts was searched this morning," the headquarters said on its VKontakte page.

Lawyers and journalists are being denied access to Shvarts, it said.

The press service of the Russian Interior Ministry's regional branch has declined to comment.

"We know nothing about it," the press service told Interfax.

Searches were took place at the home of coordinator of Navalny's Tambov headquarters Diana Rudakova and other supporters, Open Russia activist responsible for liaison with the headquarters Andrei Polyakov told Interfax.

"I know that the homes of Rudakova and Anna Nefyodova were searched. Their cell phones were seized. Obviously, they are now at a police station. Igor Slivin is not answering our calls, either. The searches began at 6:30 a.m.," Polyakov said.

Police also searched the home of coordinator of Navalny's headquarters in Yaroslavl Yelena Lekiashvili, the headquarters said on Twitter.

"The home of headquarters coordinator Yelena Lekiashvili has been searched since 6:00 a.m.," it said.

Law enforcement agencies have not yet responded to an Interfax request for comment.

The Russian Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into FBK's funding on August 3. Investigators said that between January 2016 and December 2018 FBK employees laundered about one billion rubles criminally obtained from other people. These funds were used to carry out FBK's activity.

The non-profit Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) was registered by Navalny in September 2011. The organization is engaged in anti-corruption investigations. The foundation said that it is funded by donations.