Russian Authorities Again Raid FBK Moscow Headquarter
Russian security forces raided the Moscow-based headquarters of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) on Thursday, dragged its founder and leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny out and confiscated technical equipment from the office, Reuters reported.
The agency cited Navalny as saying that the Federal Bailiffs Service raided the FBK offices after he refused to delete a video investigation from 2017, in which he directly linked Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the Russian oligarch of Uzbek origin Alisher Usmanov, accusing them both of corruption.
Usmanov, one of the richest people in Russia and 106th richest person in the world, according to Forbes, won a defamation lawsuit against Navalny in 2017 over the video, which, as the RFE reported back then, alleged Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s massive corruption.
It suggested that Medvedev was using a network of purported charitable foundations to control wealth both in Russia and abroad and that Usmanov had donated a US$50 million mansion outside Moscow to one of those foundations “as a gift.”
Since it was posted in March 2017, the video became viral and has been watched for more than 32 million times.
Earlier this month, Navalny provoked Medvedev with another YouTube video, in which he alleged that Andrei Kostin, the CEO of state-owned lender VTB, had organized a “corruption scheme for Medvedev’s wife” Svetlana that involved expensive gifts such as upscale property, a yacht and a private jet.
Medvedev’s office never replied to OCCRP’s request for comment regarding Navalny’s allegations.
The latest move against Navalny and his FBK occured as Navalny was filming another episode of his YouTube show and was supposed to prevent its release, FBK Spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh told Deutsche Welle.
Pointing out that the “Navalny Live” YouTube videos usually attract millions of viewers, Yarmysh said that the authorities “didn’t like that success,” and raided FBK offices and seized the technical equipment, “so there can be no show.”
Reacting on his Twitter, Navalny ironically asked which Santa Claus he needs to address when police steels FBK’s equipment?
Acting against one of its strongest critics in August this year, Russian authorities have begun investigating Navalny’s FBK on suspicion of laundering one billion rubles (US$15.3 million).
About two months later, in October, the country’s security services simultaneous raided 30 FBK offices throughout Russia, less than a week after the Ministry of Justice declared Navalny’s foundation a “foreign agent,” forcing the anti-graft group to disclose its donors and objectives.