Moscow: Russian police on Wednesday launched raids on the Moscow apartments and offices of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, his team said, ahead of new protests called for the weekend to demand his release.
Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s FBK Anti-Corruption Foundation, said police were searching flats linked to Navalny and the foundation’s offices for alleged violations of coronavirus restrictions.
Russia’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday it had launched a criminal probe into the violation of sanitary and epidemiological measures during a Moscow protest that saw thousands rally in support of Navalny on Saturday.
The ministry’s spokeswoman Irina Volk said the organisers and participants of the rally “created a threat of the spread of the novel coronavirus infection”.
Zhdanov said on Twitter that Navalny’s wife Yulia was at one of the apartments and posted a video from inside where loud hammering could be heard outside the door.
“They are not letting in my lawyer. They broke my door in,” Yulia Navalny yelled to journalists from out of her apartment window, an AFP journalist reported.
Zhdanov posted a screenshot from a security camera at the office of the foundation, showing several masked men there.
The FBK is best known for its investigations into the wealth of Russia’s political elite.
Its most recent report suggested President Vladimir Putin has gifted an opulent property on the Black Sea Coast costing over $1.5 billion.
The investigation was released days after Navalny was arrested on his return on 17 January from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Russia on Saturday calling for Navalny’s release.
According to independent monitors, more than 3,900 people were detained at the demonstrations.