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Several houses and apartments of suspected protest leaders were searched by Russian authorities on 11 June 2012. The searches came shortly after Putin and his party pushed an anti-protesting law through the Duma that increases the protesting fines 150 fold.
The apartments that were searched were those of Alexei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov, Ilya Yashin, and Ksenia Sobchak; the homes of Udaltsov’s parents and Navalny’s parernts and in-laws were also searched. Sobchak is a Russian television personality whose father was also a mentor of Putin’s. The Russian police have also noted that they plan to search former political activist Bori Nemtsov as well.
The searches lasted for as long as twelve hours and the investigators seized cell phones, computers, and tablets.
Udaltsov claims, “the authorities are in a panic…they are trying to conduct primitive, repressive actions, but I am sure they’ll only achieve the opposite effect. These sorts of searches annoy and outrage people, and people in even greater numbers take to the streets.”
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is “deeply concerned by the apparent harassment of Russian political opposition figures on the eve of the planned demonstrations on June 12.”
After the search the protest leaders were called in for questioning on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 11 AM, one hour before protests began in Pushkin Square. Many worried that if the protest leaders were not released in time for the protest, a clash between police and protesters would ensue. The protest was planned and approved by authorities for 12 June which is the national holiday, Russia Day, celebrating the day in 1990 when Russian lawmakers declared independence from the Soviet Union and gave power to Russian authorities over the Soviets.
Udaltsov ignored his summons to be questioned and led the protesters in chanting “Russia will be free.” The protests saw around 65,000 people, much greater than the original 18,000 estimated by the Russian authorities, meaning the police presence was small in comparison. Most of the protesters are white collar professionals who want more say in politics and to avoid economic stagnation according to Gulf News.
Some of the protesters explained that they were not worried about the new anti-protesting law that was passed the previous Friday after Putin signed it into law. One woman, Nina Lobachyova, 73, stated, “I am not afraid I will be fined. I am not going to fight or scream, why would they fine me? And if they do, I won’t pay, I’ll go to jail and be considered a political prisoner.”