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Russian Police Raid Homes Of Opposition Group Coordinators, Independent Lawmakers

Carrying a sign that declares, in reference to President Vladimir Putin, "Down with the tsar," municipal deputy Yulia Galyamina protests in downtown Moscow on July 1, 2020 against amendments to Russia's constitution.

Police in Moscow on July 9 searched the homes of coordinators of the Open Russia opposition group, the editor-in-chief of the independent MBKh Media online publication, and independent municipal council deputies.

Tatyana Usmanova, an Open Russia coordinator, wrote on Twitter on July 9 that Moscow police were searching her apartment and the apartments of municipal lawmaker Yulia Galyamina and Olga Gorelik, who is the wife of another independent municipal deputy, Konstantin Yanauskas.

"They don’t want to wait for a lawyer. They're trying to break down the door,” Usmanova tweeted.

Municipal deputy Galyamina, a prominent opposition activist, posted on Twitter that she was not at home and that her lawyer, Mikhail Biryukov, was unable to enter the apartment block to reach the residence, where her son, who has a medical condition, was waiting alone.

MBKh Media reported that police in Moscow also came to the home of its editor-in-chief Sergei Prostakov. It added that his lawyer, Gennady Fyodorov, was not allowed to enter his client's apartment to be present during the search.

Meanwhile, police in the Siberian city of Tomsk searched the residence of Open Russia's lawyer in the region, Aleksei Pryanishnikov, his wife, Nadezhda, told MBKh Media.

Officials did not comment on why the searches were being conducted.

Open Russia lawyer Sergei Badamshin said the search of Olga Gorelik's home is linked to the 2003 case against the oil giant Yukos. That year, Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of Open Russia, was arrested and prosecuted on charges of tax evasion and fraud.

During Russia's recent week-long vote on constitutional amendments that expand certain presidential powers, state-financed media charged that Khodorkovsky, an exiled, outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was using Open Russia to interfere in the voting process.

Open Russia's press secretary, Konstantin Fomin, told Mediazona, though, that the Yukos case is just a pretext for conducting the searches.

According to Fomin, the real reason for the searches might be a request by opposition activists to hold a rally in Moscow’s Pushkin square on July 15 to protest against the approved constitutional amendments that, among other things, allow for the possibility that President Putin could run for two more terms once his current six-year term ends in 2024.

The controversial amendments took effect on July 4 following a national vote that critics say was marred by unprecedented levels of fraud.