Navalny
© REUTERS / Tatyana Makeyeva
Alexei Navalny at a polling station during the Moscow city council election.
Nationwide raids have reportedly targeted the supporters of opposition figure Aleksey Navalny in what they branded as government revenge for undermining the ruling party's election campaigns.

On Thursday morning, dozens of chapters of an opposition network led by Navalny were searched by Russian law enforcement, Navalny's right-hand man Leonid Volkov said. Branches in some 40 Russian cities as well as apartments of some employees were targeted, according to the activist.

The search warrants were apparently issued as part of an investigation into an alleged large-scale money laundering scheme, which investigators believe had been used to fund the operations of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), an NGO led by Navalny. The probe into it was launched in early August. Investigators said at the time they suspected as much as $15.3 million had been transferred into the NGO's coffers illegally over the past three years.

Russian law enforcement has yet to comment officially on the reported crackdown.

Navalny and his supporters had been involved in organizing a series of mass protests in Moscow ahead of the election of the city council. The demonstrations were meant to pressure the election commission to allow a dozen opposition candidates to run despite failure to submit necessary paperwork. They insisted the candidates had been barred illegally.

The street campaign failed to sway the commission, but did result in several administrative arrests for some of the organizers, including Navalny. They were punished for calling on people to demonstrate in breach of rules for mass gatherings. Some of the rallies resulted in clashes between the activists and the police.

After it was clear that the opposition wouldn't get what it wanted, Navalny's team changed tactics. The Moscow election was one of dozens held in Russia last Sunday, with people choosing legislators and governors in many regions of the country. Navalny called on their supporters to vote for select candidates running against those representing the ruling United Russia party, which was dubbed "smart voting."

The outcome was indeed less-than-spectacular for United Russia, which Navalny claimed as a major win for himself. It was not immediately clear however if "smart voting" had as big an impact as Navalny claims. The Thursday searches, some of his supporters said, were retaliation for this election gambit, carried out under the false pretext of a crime probe.