Russian police search Alexei Navalny's residence and offices, arrest brother

Moscow police launched a series of raids Wednesday on apartments and offices of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's family and associates, arresting his brother.

Navalny has been jailed since returning to the country following recovery in Germany from poisoning

Police walk out an apartment belonging to Oleg Navalny, brother of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in Moscow on Wednesday. Police searched a number of properties associated with the opposition figure, Navalny aides said. (Mstyslav Chernov/The Associated Press)

Moscow police launched a series of raids Wednesday on apartments and offices of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's family and associates, arresting his brother.

The searched locations included Navalny's apartment, where police detained his brother, Oleg, and a rented apartment where Navalny's wife, Yulia, has been living.

Video on the internet TV station Dozhd showed Yulia Navalny telling journalists from the window that police had not allowed her lawyer to enter the apartment.

The raids came four days before protests that Navalny's supporters have called for Sunday.

Demonstrations calling for his release took place in more than 100 cities across the nation last Saturday, a strong show of rising anger toward the Kremlin. Nearly 4,000 people were reported arrested at those protests.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and across Russia to demand the release of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny this past weekend. Police used force to break up the protests and detained more than 2,500 people. Navalny is best known for his anti-corruption investigations and was recently the subject of an assassination attempt. After recovering from his poisoning in Germany, Navalny returned to Russia only to be arrested and imprisoned in Moscow. CBC Russia correspondent Chris Brown talks to host Jayme Poisson about the growing movement in support of Navalny, and whether it might actually challenge President Vladimir Putin’s hold on power in Russia.

Other locations raided by police Wednesday were the offices of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation and the studio that produces his videos and online broadcasts. The popular videos and broadcasts helped make Navalny into Russian President Vladimir Putin's most-prominent and persistent foe.

There was no immediate police comment on the searches. Navalny associates said on social media that the searches were connected to alleged violations of epidemiological regulations from last week's mass protest in Moscow.

But "the real reason for the searches of Navalny's teams, relatives and office is Putin's crazy fear," Navalny's team said in a message.

In this 2018 file photo, Navalny, left, and his brother Oleg leave the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, eastern France. (Jean-Francois Badias/The Associated Press)

West watching Navalny case closely

Navalny's challenge to Putin grew after he was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Two days after his arrest, his organization released an extensive video report on a palatial seaside compound allegedly built for Putin. It has been viewed tens of millions of times, further stoking discontent.

Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent and durable foe, fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on Aug. 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to one in Berlin two days later.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.

Russian authorities have refused to open a full-fledged criminal inquiry, citing a lack of evidence that Navalny was poisoned.

In December, Navalny released the recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he described as an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who purportedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it up. The FSB dismissed the recording as fake.

WATCH | Navalny's wife among those arrested at large rallies:

Navalny's wife among hundreds detained at anti-Kremlin protests

1 year ago
Duration 1:46
Police detained more than 1,000 people across Russia and used force to break up rallies around the country as tens of thousands of protesters demanded the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose wife was among those arrested.

Navalny's arrest and the harsh police actions at the protests have brought wide criticism from the West and calls for his release.

U.S. President Joe Biden brought up the Navalny case in his first call to Putin, according to a White House readout of the call on Tuesday.

Russia's foreign ministry said Wednesday that a statement by the Group of Seven foreign ministers condemning his arrest constitutes "gross interference" in Russia's domestic affairs.