Russia targets opposition leader Navalny with mass raids

Yulia_Navalny,_Alexey_Navalny,_Anna_Veduta_and_Ilya_Yashin_at_Moscow_rally_2013-06-12_1.JPG

By Anna Malpas

Moscow (AFP) - Russian investigators on Thursday raided dozens of regional offices of top protest leader Alexei Navalny as well as the homes of his supporters after mass opposition rallies this summer.

Navalny said the raids were the result of Kremlin "hysteria" after allies of President Vladimir Putin suffered major losses in local elections in Moscow on Sunday.

Navalny, who had instructed supporters to vote strategically to push out pro-Kremlin candidates, said on YouTube: "Putin got upset and is stomping his feet."

"That's what we're seeing in 41 cities across the whole country," he added, looking tired and drawn in the video hastily shot on his mobile phone.

He said the raids were being carried out at more than 200 addresses in "the biggest police operation in Russia's modern history".

Police, investigators, national guard and security services were all involved and seized equipment such as phones and computers, he said.

Navalny has credited his strategic voting campaign for the ruling party losing almost a third of its seats in elections for Moscow city parliament, writing in a blog entry: "Why such hysteria? Two words: smart voting."

The charismatic leader said the raids were targeting his network of campaign offices and the homes of campaign coordinators and their relatives, as well as his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which has worked to expose officials' questionable wealth.

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