Russian authorities have started a tax probe against Ksenia Sobchak, a member of the opposition that organizes the protests against President Vladimir Putin that sparked searches of protest leaders’ homes.
Law enforcement officers have asked Sobchak, a reality-show host and daughter of the late former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak under whom Putin once served, to explain the origin of $1.8 million of cash found in her apartment, the Investigative Committee said on its website today. Sobchak didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term last month, facing the biggest challenge to his authority as a disputed parliamentary election in December triggered a wave of protests. A march through central Moscow today, a national holiday to mark Russia’s departure from the Soviet Union, drew 18,000 people and ended without arrest, Moscow police said on its website. Organizers estimated the crowd at 100,000.
“I’m very positive about the event we had today,” Sergei Parkhomenko, an organizer, said by phone after the rally. “It showed that if lots of people in a good mood come, it’s not easy to spoil the rally with provocative actions.”
Demonstrators clashed with police at a rally on May 6, on the eve of Putin’s inauguration, when dozens of opposition leaders including Sergei Udaltsov, Boris Nemtsov and anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny were detained.
Udaltsov, one of the organizers who was questioned by police, and Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, were among the protesters today. Udaltsov told the crowd he flouted a police summons to attend the rally, calling on law enforcement to free protesters jailed last month. The opposition leader also called for additional protests on Oct. 7, Putin’s birthday.
Navalny, Udaltsov and Ilya Yashin will be charged with organizing a riot on May 6, the Moscow-based news service Interfax said, citing Yashin. They are currently being questioned as witnesses, he told Interfax.
“We were going to stay at the dacha today until we heard about these insane raids on Navalny and Sobchak,” Elena Karpova, a Moscow teacher, said at the rally. “So much for Putin 2.0.”