Moscow (AFP) - Russian security officials searched the offices of leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's anti-corruption foundation on Thursday, with his team calling the raid a new bid to disrupt their work.
Navalny linked the searches to his refusal to take down a 2017 video report that accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of massive corruption and has racked up nearly 33 million views on YouTube.
"What's happening is part of the coordinated campaign against the anti-corruption foundation," Navalny, 43, told reporters, but vowed that his organisation would not be intimidated.
"This complicates our work but we will not halt it," said Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most outspoken critic, adding it was the fifth such raid on the foundation.
The opposition politician said he was not detained but was "simply forcibly dragged out of the office".
Videos released by Navalny's staff showed men clad in black uniforms, masks and helmets searching the premises. The team said the searches were conducted by court bailiffs.
- 'We won't give up' -
Navalny said they were seizing "everything," and suggested the raids took place Thursday because he was set to address supporters in a weekly YouTube broadcast.
He was later able to make the live broadcast from a reserve studio, telling more than 50,000 viewers: "I don't know what has happened to the office."
"We won't give up in any case," he told supporters.
On screen, his coffee cup was used to comment on the Medvedev report, with the words "we won't take it down, we won't give in" scrawled on it.
The Russian authorities have been steadily ramping up pressure on Navalny and his allies in recent years with regular searches and short jail terms for the top Kremlin critic and his allies.
In August, investigators launched a money-laundering probe into the anti-corruption foundation, which seeks donations from the public and publishes investigations into state officials.
In October, the justice ministry declared the foundation a "foreign agent".
- Opposition reporter detained -
In a separate development, Russia's top opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta said that investigators had searched the Moscow flat of one of its journalists, Yulia Polukhina.
After the raid, the mother-of-two was taken to "an unknown destination," the award-winning newspaper said in a statement.
The newspaper added that the searches were linked to Novaya Gazeta reports on topics including "illegal armed groups" that operated in war-torn eastern Ukraine where Kiev is battling pro-Kremlin separatists.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement later Thursday the journalist was questioned in connection with a case against a criminal gang she had written about.
Polukhina was later allowed to go home, Novaya Gazeta reported.
- 'Roaming polar bears' -
The offices of Navalny's foundation have been searched several times this year and staff even created a Twitter account for its regularly broken-down front door.
"I'm alive and hanging in there," the account said on Thursday.
Navalny helped organise major anti-government protests this summer that saw tens of thousands march in Moscow to demand fair elections.
A number of people received jail terms for taking part in the protests.
On Wednesday, Navalny said that one of his allies had been forcibly conscripted and sent to serve at a remote Arctic base, a move he said amounted to kidnapping.
Ruslan Shaveddinov, a project manager at Navalny's foundation, went missing Monday after police broke down the door of his Moscow flat.
He resurfaced Tuesday at an air defence site on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
"He was able to call us twice and we learnt that he's in Novaya Zemlya and polar bears are roaming nearby," Navalny said.
"Absolutely illegally, they actually kidnapped him and took him on several planes over the course of a night."
The remote islands were used by the Soviet Union to conduct nuclear tests.
Opposition supporters said Shaveddinov's treatment was a new low in Moscow's fight against dissenters.
"There is not the slightest legal basis to draft him into the army," Navalny said Thursday.