Armed police carried out the searches at the homes of Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger; Boris Nemtsov, the former deputy prime minister; Ilya Yashin, a moderate democrat; Ksenia Sobchak, a socialite and television personality; and Sergei Udaltsov, a leftist. Mr Nemtsov was out at the time.
Clearly aimed at halting months of opposition rallies, the raids are part of a tougher approach designed to crush dissent at the start of the former KGB spy’s third six-year term as President.
Mr Udaltsov, head of the Left Front party, said that police seized documents, fliers and his mobile phone, and had frightened his elderly parents. “They riffled through everything, every wardrobe, in the toilet, in the refrigerator. They searched under the beds. Were they looking for our secrets?” he said.
General Vladimir Markin, of the Investigative Committee, said that the searches were all carried out in accordance with the law.
Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the President’s advisory committee on human rights, said that such raids undermined public trust in the authorities. “Those in power should be trying to ease tensions … not inflaming the situation,” he said
A hardening of attitudes has been evident on both sides since the violence on May 6, when police said that demonstrators threw bottles and chunks of asphalt. Protesters said the violence was provoked by pro-Kremlin thugs. Police and protesters were among those injured, more than 400 arrests were made and criminal charges are being pressed in a handful of cases.
Punishments for taking part in illegal protests have become much harsher since Mr Putin signed a law on Friday that raises the fine to the equivalent of a year’s average salary. The fines are even greater for protest organisers.