Russian police raid opposition leader Alexei Navalny's office amid protests

By Updated at 2018-01-28 08:46:04 +0000

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MOSCOW — Russian police have forced their way into the Moscow office of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a spokeswoman says. The raid comes as Navalny's supporters plan nationwide rallies to protest "pseudo-elections."

Russian police descended on the Moscow headquarters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Sunday morning and forced their way in using an angle grinder, a spokeswoman for Navalny said.

The report of the police raid came as Navalny and his supporters were set to hold rallies throughout the country. They aim to protest at a March 18 presidential election they say is rigged to hand President Vladimir Putin a fourth term in office, cementing his Kremlin power until 2024.

What we know about the police raid

• Navalny's supporters have posted photographs on the internet showing some 14 policemen gathered outside his office door.

• Opposition TV said the police had started questioning people.

• Kira Yarmysh, a spokeswoman for Navalny, said she thought the police raid was aimed at shutting down an opposition TV studio.

Banned from running: Navalny, who has been banned from running in the election, has called for nationwide protests on Sunday that will appeal to voters to boycott the March election. Not all rallies have received official sanction, and arrests and confrontations with police are expected.

Why has Navalny been banned: Russian authorities say he is ineligible because of a criminal conviction for financial crimes that Navalny says is politically motivated.

Why do many want to see Putin go: Putin has been in power, both as president and prime minister, for 18 years now. Many feel this is too long and also accuse the president and his allies of corruption and authoritarianism.

What do the planned protests hope to achieve: Navalny and his supporters want to discourage Russians from voting at the elections so that the poll is undermined by a low turnout.

What happens next

If the rallies go ahead, particularly in Moscow, Navalny and his supporters are reckoning with police intervention and possible arrests.

(Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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