MOSCOW, May 9 (RIA Novosti) – Police in the city of Kirov searched early on Thursday the offices of supporters of Alexei Navalny, one of Russia’s most prominent Kremlin critics, following a tip that they may storage extremist propaganda materials, the Interior Ministry said.
“A group of investigators was sent to the [Navalny HQ] location after the prosecutor’s office authorized the search,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The search is underway,” the statement said. “The seized printed materials will be sent for analysis on suspicion that they may have extremist content.”
Vitaly Bramm, coordinator of Navalny supporters HQ later confirmed that police had searched the offices and seized all printed materials from the premises.
“They [the police investigators] counted the materials and seized pamphlets, newspapers and banners,” Bramm said.
Navalny, a vocal Kremlin critic who led some of Moscow’s massive 2011-2012 street protests against alleged electoral fraud and the rule of President Vladimir Putin, is currently on trial on charges of heading a criminal group that investigators say embezzled 16 million rubles’ ($500,000) worth of timber from state-run company Kirovles in central Russia’s Kirov Region in 2009.
He and his former political ally, Kirov businessman Pyotr Ofitserov, face up to 10 years behind bars if found guilty of the charges, which they deny.
The investigation into the Kirovles allegations was originally opened in December 2010, but quickly closed for lack of evidence. The case was reopened shortly after Navalny dubbed Putin’s United Russia party “crooks and thieves” in February 2011.
The case was again closed in April 2012, but swiftly reopened on the orders of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee and a close Putin ally.
The charges, and hence the possible jail time, were ramped up in late July 2012, just days after Navalny accused Bastrykin of owning undeclared foreign real estate and other assets.