July 9, 2020 / 5:47 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Russian activists planning anti-Putin protest detained, says opposition

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By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

MOSCOW, July 9 (Reuters) - Two Russian activists involved in a campaign against what they say are President Vladimir Putin’s illegal plans to remain in power were detained by authorities on Thursday and five others were questioned and had their homes searched, an anti-Kremlin group said.

Moscow’s Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, and the city’s police force did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Activists had planned a protest in central Moscow on July 15 advertised on social media as “No to an eternal Putin”.

A landslide vote this month handed Putin the right to run for two more presidential terms, an outcome the Kremlin described as a triumph.

Opposition activists say the vote was illegitimate and that it’s time for Putin, who has ruled Russia for over two decades as president or prime minister, to step down.

Mass gatherings are banned in the capital because of COVID-19 restrictions. Even in normal times, protests of more than one person require the authorities’ advance consent.

Open Russia, a movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said its Moscow offices were being searched and that two of its employees, including executive director Andrei Pivovarov, had been detained.

Pivovarov earlier on Thursday posted a link on Twitter encouraging people to attend next week’s protest.

Yulia Galyamina, a Moscow city councillor, said police arrived at her apartment early on Thursday and threatened to tear down the door unless they were let in.

“It’s because of the campaign against the (constitutional) reforms,” she told Reuters. “It’s because of the planned protest.”

The homes of Tatiana Usmanova and Olga Gorelik, from Open Russia, were also searched on Tuesday, the organisation said.

Another representative, Alexei Pryanishnikov, was targeted by a search in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

The home of Sergei Prostakov, editor-in-chief of MBKh Media, a news outlet founded by Khodorkovsky, was searched, it said, adding its offices had also been targeted.

Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition figure, said on Twitter the searches were designed to “demoralise those who are against Putin”. (Additional reporting by Maria Vasilyeva and Anton Zverev; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Barbara Lewis)

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