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Offices Of Khodorkovsky-Founded Media, Pro-Democracy Organizations Raided In Russia

Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky
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
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