MOSCOW - Police raided the apartments of a dozen or more activists Monday morning, seizing documents, ordering opposition leaders in for questioning and raising apprehensions about how harshly authorities would handle a big protest march planned for Tuesday.
Ever since Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as president on May 7, Russians have nervously speculated about how he would deal with dissent. The raids Monday suggested he would do as many predicted - make an example of a few to frighten off the many.
On Monday, police targeted some of the most visible and charismatic leaders of the opposition, including Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger, Sergei Udaltsov and his wife, Anastasia, leaders of the communist-leading Left Front, and Ilya Yashin, a 28-year-old leader in the liberal opposition. Ksenia Sobchak, a glamorous television personality long-considered untouchable because she is the daughter of Putin's mentor, was also raided. So were Udaltsov's parents, Navalny's in-laws and an aide to a confrontational member of parliament, Ilya Ponomarev.