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Protesters’ Homes Searched After Moscow City Council Rally

Police on July 31 searched the home of Pavel Chikov, leader of the Agora rights group.

Police in Moscow have searched the home of Aleksei Minyailo, who trains signature collectors for the headquarters of opposition leader Lyubov Sobol, according to the independent watchdog OVD-Info.

OVD-Info says the search took place on August 1 and is connected to the Investigative Committee’s criminal investigation into an unauthorized July 27 rally that was held to protest election officials for not registering independent and opposition candidates ahead of this autumn’s vote to the Moscow city council.

The investigation into rioting, or causing “mass unrest” according to the criminal code’s wording, was opened on July 30 and potential charges carry up to 15 years in prison.

After the launching of the probe, police on July 31 began visiting people who took part in in the protest, including Left Block leader Vasiliy Kuzmin and Agora rights group head Pavel Chikov.

Police are asking people whose homes were searched to sign a document which threatens criminal prosecution if they ever again participate in a demonstration, according to Chikov.

Moscow election officials barred some opposition candidates from the September 8 poll for what they said was insufficient signatures on nominating petitions. The decision has sparked an outcry and several demonstrations this month, including one on July 20 in Moscow that drew an estimated crowd of 20,000 people.

The latest such rally was held near the Moscow mayor's office on July 27, where security officials launched a violent crackdown on participants, using what human rights groups and Western governments have called "disproportionate force” to break up the demonstration. Police said 1,074 arrests were made, while OVD-Info reported 1,373 detentions.

Dozens of protesters have since been fined or given prison sentences ranging from three to 30 days for organizing and participating in an unsanctioned rally. Others are facing criminal charges for allegedly assaulting police.

On July 31, a Moscow court sentenced Mikhail Svetov, the leader of the Libertarian Party of Russia, to 30 days in jail after finding him guilty of violating laws on holding public events.

The court said that Svetov broke the law on July 16 when he participated in an unauthorized rally held by opposition and independent city council candidates.

Svetov characterized his sentence as "retaliation" by Moscow officials for his refusal to accept their conditions regarding the site of a new rally on August 3 against the exclusion of the candidates from the ballot.

Svetov, his party, and other activists and politicians want to hold the rally on the Lubyanka Square in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

Meanwhile, tests performed on unspecified biomaterial taken from opposition politician and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, who is serving a 30-day jail sentence for calling the July 27 protest, have excluded poisoning as a reason for his recent hospitalization, according to a laboratory chief.

Navalny was taken to hospital late on July 28 with severe swelling of the face and a rash, sparking fears he had been the victim of a poisoning attempt. He was transferred back to jail a day later.

Aleksei Tokarev, chief physician of the Moscow Sklifosovsky Medical Center, said on July 31 that samples had been delivered to the center’s lab on July 29 and the results which came back state "no substances that could cause poisoning have been found."

However, Navalny's personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, said she has taken Navalny's hair and clothing samples for independent testing, as well as calling for the release of any video from cameras in the jail where the 43-year-old was being held.