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Former Ukrainian Central Bank Governor Valeria Hontareva (file photo)

KYIV -- Valeria Hontareva, the former chief of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), says her apartment in Kyiv has been raided by law enforcement officers.

"Ten people in bulletproof vests forced their way with crowbars into my place of residence on Velyka Zhytomyrska [Street] in Kyiv and are conducting a search," Hontareva told the Interfax news agency on September 12, adding that the men were masked and armed.

Hontareva said that no one was in the apartment when the search was conducted. She said local authorities in Kyiv, including the prosecutor-general and police, knew that her current residence is in London.

Ukraine's State Bureau for Investigations neither confirmed nor rejected the report about the search, but said that offices of the state-owned military concern Ukroboronprom were being searched over a probe of alleged misdeeds by the former NBU leadership in 2016.

A week earlier, Hontareva said that unknown attackers burned a car belonging to her daughter-in-law in front of her residence in Kyiv on the night of September 4.

On August 26, a car ran over Hontareva’s foot in London sending her to the hospital with broken bones.

She said on September 9 that she might apply for political asylum in Britain, alleging that the incidents indicated pressure imposed on her by Ukrainian authorities.

Hontareva's efforts to clean up Ukraine's financial sector as the NBU chairwoman in 2014-2018 irked wealthy oligarchs, who critics say have treated the country's banks like their private coffers.

Hontareva also came under fire from some ordinary Ukrainians who blamed her for losses they suffered after she was appointed to follow advice from the International Monetary Fund to partially abandon state support for the hryvnya currency.

During Hontareva-led reforms, international auditors found a $5.5 billion hole on PrivatBank’s balance sheet, prompting the NBU to use taxpayer funds to nationalize it.

The bank was co-owned by billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskiy, whom Hontareva has accused of threatening her and of being behind the incidents in London and Kyiv.

In previous interviews, Kolomoyskiy -- a former business associate of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy -- has said he did nothing wrong at PrivatBank and there is no evidence tying him to the events involving Hontareva and her family.

Hontareva said she started receiving veiled threats from Kolomoyskiy three years ago and public threats in her direction from last year.

Authorities are investigating Hontareva in two criminal probes. In one of these she is being treated as a witness, the other as a suspect for abusing her office as a central bank official.

She hasn't appeared for questioning in Ukraine, calling the cases "fabricated" and aimed at applying pressure on her for her role in nationalizing PrivatBank.

On August 27, a Kyiv court granted authorities permission to "forcibly" bring her in for questioning, although she has lived in Britain for a year as a research fellow at the London School of Economics.

With reporting by Interfax
Communist Party politician Vyacheslav Markhayev (right) at a protest in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude on September 10.

ULAN-UDE, Russia -- Police in Russia's Siberian region of Buryatia have detained 17 activists who have been challenging mayoral election results for days.

Local police said that the activists were detained in the early hours of September 12 after they refused to leave a bus parked near the central square in the regional capital, Ulan-Ude, where they spent the night before resuming their protest after sunrise.

According to the police, law enforcement officers began detaining the activists after they threw a tear-gas grenade towards the police.

Meanwhile, correspondents of the Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported that it was police who threw a tear-gas grenade inside the bus to force the activists, including a pregnant woman, to leave the vehicle.

The city administration said on September 12 that it received a letter from an unidentified individual that threatened to set off a series of explosions in public areas unless all of the detained activists were released and a new mayoral election held.

Protesters began gathering on the central square in Ulan-Ude on September 9 to demand a revision of the results of the election held a day earlier for the city's mayor and expressing their support for a shaman, Aleksandr Gabyshev, who has been walking from the Far Eastern region of Sakha-Yakutia for four months to Moscow "to drive President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin."

Shaman On 8,000-Kilometer Trek 'To Topple Putin'
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The protesters say the election was rigged to secure the victory of an independent candidate and acting Mayor Igor Shutenkov.

Shutenkov's main competitor, Vyacheslav Markhayev of the Communist Party, called the election "the most devious and dirty among all of those I have taken part in."

On September 10, police detained local lawmaker Bair Tsyrenov of the Communist Party and activist Dmitry Bairov, who were among the protesters.

Tsyrenov was later fined 15,000 rubles ($230) for taking part in an unsanctioned rally and Bairov sentenced to five days in jail on the same charge.

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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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