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Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Russian police have carried out searches of offices of the Open Russia pro-democracy movement and the independent news website MBKh media, both of which were founded by staunch Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

MBKh media, which has recently come under pressure by Russia's communications authorities, said on its website that security forces visited its editorial office in Moscow on March 19.

Editor in Chief Veronika Kutsyllo said that officers took written requests that had been made to Russian officials for comment, as well as special vests worn by reporters when covering street protests.

Andrei Pivovarov, executive director of Open Russia, reportedly said that law enforcement had removed nothing from the movement's Moscow office but seized laptops, megaphones, and other equipment from its St. Petersburg office.

MBKh media cited a human rights lawyer who accompanied the police as saying that the raids both on its offices and those of Open Russia were being conducted as part of an investigation into a criminal case against Nizhny Novgorod activist and entrepreneur Mikhail Iosilevich regarding activities with an "undesirable organization."

Iosilevich was arrested in late January and has been charged with cooperating with Open Russia, a British-based organization founded by Khodorkovsky that was designated as "undesirable" by Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office in 2017.

Entities that are given the designation are not banned, but Open Russia activists regularly face pressure from the authorities, including administrative and criminal charges. In Iosilevich's case, he allegedly provided premises to train election observers prior to the country's September regional elections.

The Russian rights group Memorial has said it believes that Iosilevich is being persecuted for political reasons.

Russia's media regulatory body Roskomnadzor earlier this week demanded that Twitter delete MBKh Media's account for publishing material from an "undesirable" organization, an allegation the news website denied.

The March 17 move came just a day after Roskomnadzor threatened to block Twitter entirely unless it complied with demands to delete content the agency believes violates Russian law. Roskomnadzor announced earlier that it had slowed down Twitter throughout Russia for its failure to remove the content.

Based on reporting by AP, Interfax, Reuters, and Current Time
Images of Suhoydz being hit by the police vehicle went viral last year.

MINSK -- A Belarusian man who was hit by a police vehicle in Minsk during rallies against the results of a presidential election Alyaksandr Lukashenka claims to have won, has been sentenced to two years in prison after a court convicted him of "disrupting public transportation operations" and "disrupting social order."

The district court in Minsk on March 19 found Yahor Suhoydz guilty of walking in the middle of the road and "jumping" on a police vehicle. He was sentenced the same day.

Suhoydz, who sustained head injuries from the accident, insists that he was at the unsanctioned rally to protest the results of the election that handed a sixth term to strongman Lukashenka and did not jump on the car.

Images of Suhoydz being hit by the vehicle went viral at the time.

In a separate case, a court in the western city of Hrodna sentenced musician Ihar Bantser to 18 months in an open prison, meaning that he will live under strict restrictions in a special dormitory and work at an industrial facility chosen by the state penitentiary service.

Bantser, who has been on hunger strike for 17 days to protest his arrest, was found guilty of publicly insulting police by showing them intimate parts of his body.

Belarus has witnessed almost daily protests since Lukashenka was declared the winner of the August 9 election by a landslide amid allegations of widespread fraud.

More than 30,000 people have been detained, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted in the government’s crackdown.

Lukashenka, who has run Belarus since 1994, and top officials have been slapped with sanctions by the West, which refuses to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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