World

Alexei Navalny defiant in face of Russian police raids of opposition activists

Police raided homes and offices of supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 43 Russian cities, his close allies said Thursday.

Police appear to be targeting those who were part of Navalny's 2018 presidential election campaign

Russian police staged raids Thursday targeting supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, seen here speaking in Moscow on Sept. 8, 2019. Navalny was not allowed to run in the country's 2018 presidential campaign. (Andrew Lubimov/The Associated Press)

Police raided homes and offices of supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 43 Russian cities, his close allies said Thursday.

So far, more than 200 raids have taken place across the country, from Vladivostok on the Pacific to Krasnodar in Russia's south.

Police have also searched the home of Sergei Boyko, a Navalny associate who came second with nearly 20 per cent of the vote in the mayoral election in Russia's third-largest city of Novosibirsk last Sunday.

In a video message, Navalny mocked authorities for the raids, comparing them to a crackdown on a drug cartel and vowed to keep up his work.

"We are not going to stop our work, don't you worry about that," he said, adding that authorities on Tuesday blocked bank accounts linked to Navalny's political aspirations.

Police appear to be targeting those who were part of Navalny's 2018 presidential election campaign. Though Navalny was not allowed to run, his supporters in local election headquarters in dozens of Russian cities have grown in force, investigating high-level corruption and mobilizing supporters for opposition rallies.

Many of his allies in the regions ran in local elections last Sunday and monitored the voting, documenting wide-spread violations in some regions like St. Petersburg. They have followed his lead in harnessing the new technology including YouTube live broadcasts and slickly produced video investigations.

"We're obviously talking about an attempt to hamper the operations of our regional network," Leonid Volkov told The Associated Press.

He said he expected the police to confiscate equipment and described the raids as a "robbery attempt," estimating the damage at several million rubles (over $15,000 US).

Volkov said the raids were linked to their successful election strategy in Moscow which cut the presence of pro-government candidates in the city legislature by a half. Police turned up at all of Navalny's chapters at 6 a.m. Moscow time despite the vast time difference across the country, which points to a co-ordinated effort, Volkov said.

Respected election monitoring group Golos also reported that homes of three of its regional co-ordinators have been raided. It said in a statement that the three people were training election monitors before the Sunday vote.

Golos condemned the police actions as "an attempt of pressure and intimidation of public monitors."

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