Police raid Navalny office, at home when Russia fines social media platforms

Russian police raided Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s group in Moscow on Wednesday and came to search several other properties, including an apartment where his wife was, as the country’s media guards said it would fine social media platforms for spreading protest calls.

Police investigations come after tens of thousands of Navalny supporters took to the streets on Saturday to urge the Kremlin to release him from prison where he is serving a 30-day term for alleged parole violations he denies.

The police had said that the protests were illegal and detained close to 4,000 people. More than a dozen criminal cases have been initiated. Navalny’s allies plan to hold another demonstration on Sunday.

Ivan Zhdanov, head of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, said police were conducting searches as part of an investigation into calls made to hold a protest against counter-restrictions on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Zhdanov wrote on Twitter that Navalny’s apartment in northern Moscow was being searched for.

“Many ‘heavy’ in masks. They started breaking down the door,” Zhdanov said, adding that Navalny’s brother, Oleg, was inside the property.

Elsewhere, Zhdanov published a video showing Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Kremlin critics, asking police to wait for her lawyer to arrive when they knock on the door.

Police also searched the offices of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, he said. Photos on social media showed about 20 masked men waiting to enter.

Navalny has not yet returned home since he was poisoned last summer, as he was immediately arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had recovered.

Action against social media

The police raids came when Russia’s media guards said they would punish the best social media platforms for not removing posts urging minors to join sanctioned protests in support of Navalny.

Before Saturday’s meetings, social media platforms including TikTok, which is popular with teenagers, were flooded with thousands of posts urging Russians to demonstrate.

In response, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor warned the platforms that they would be fined for not deleting such posts, saying that several had deleted a significant number.

But on Wednesday, the watchdog felt they had not done enough and said that platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube would be fined “for not meeting the requirements to suppress the spread of calls to minors to attend unauthorized meetings”.

“Despite a request from the prosecutor’s office and a report from Roskomnadzor, these internet platforms did not remove a total of 170 illegal appeals in time,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

It added that the fine would range from 800,000 rubles ($ 10,520) to 4 million rubles ($ 52,760).

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin complained about the growing influence of large technology companies, which he said compete with states.

Hashtags dedicated to Navalny have trended on TikTok, where they have received more than 1.5 billion views since he returned from Germany.

( Jowharwith REUTERS, AFP)