Office Of Golos Voters' Rights Movement, Activists' Homes Across Russia Searched

MOSCOW -- Police have searched the Moscow office of Golos (Voice), a movement that monitors elections and defends voters' rights, as well as the homes of the group's members in Moscow and other parts of Russia.

Grigory Melkonyants, the movement's co-chairman, said on October 5 that Moscow police confiscated computers, flash memory cards, payment cards, and his passport during an early morning that was executed "on completely trumped-up reasons."

According to Melkonyants, police said the searches were conducted because the Golos members were "witnesses" in a probe launched against Mikhail Gusev, a member of the movement from the city of Ivanovo, who was charged with discrediting Russia's armed forces.

Police also searched the homes of leading Golos members Arkady Lyubarev and Vitaly Kovin in Perm, Irina Matlseva in Ivanovo, Natalya Guseva in the Chelyabinsk region, as well as journalist Denis Kamalyagin and two members of the Yabloko opposition party -- Nikolai Kuzmin and Katerina Novikova -- in the city of Pskov.

Golos member Vitaly Averin said the searches were held over the organization's "fight for fair and free elections, and for a humane state governed by the rule of law."

Earlier in the day, police in Moscow searched the home of noted mathematician and elections analyst Sergei Shpilkin.

Officially established in 2013, Golos has monitored elections in Russia and other countries since the early 2000s. Last year, the Justice Ministry declared the movement and its 20 regional coordinators "foreign agents," a tool critics say the government uses to harass and restrict dissenting voices.