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Amnesty International offices searched in Moscow amid mass government crackdown

Human Rights Watch reports "unprecedented" pressure on rights groups in Russia.

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A woman enters the Memorial rights group office in Moscow, on March 21, 2013. Russian prosecutors searched today the offices of Memorial, one of the country's oldest and most respected rights groups, as part of a new campaign targeting hundreds of nongovernmental organizations across the country, one of the group leader Oleg Orlov said. (Kirill Kudryavtsev /AFP/Getty Images)

Russian officials searched Amnesty International's (AI) Moscow bureau and other rights organizations on Monday, the group said, further tightening the screws on civil society there. 

AI's Russia director Sergei Nikitin told The Associated Press that his offices were visited by officials representing the general prosecutor as well as the tax police as part of a government audit recorded by state TV on Monday. 

Russian President Vladmir Putin has lead the charge against non-governmental organizations and other rights group since returning to the helm as president last May. A new law labeling groups with outside funding as "foreign agents" sailed through parliament recently, and some 2,000 rights groups there have been searched in the last month alone, presidential human rights council member Pavel Chikov told AP.

Other rights organizations, such as the For Human Rights group and Public Verdict, were also searched on Monday, said AP

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday issued an alert about heightened government monitoring, saying the Russian prosecutor’s office has plans to investigate 30-100 rights groups in each of the country's many regions, a move the group warned "could amount to thousands of groups throughout the country."

“The scale of the inspections is unprecedented and only serves to reinforce the menacing atmosphere for civil society,” HRW's Europe and Central Asia director, Hugh Williamson, said in the statement

Chikov told AP that many groups were being searched on questionable legal grounds, with officials resorting to loose interpretations of laws against "extremism."

The US Embassy in Moscow has voiced concern over the crackdown, said AP

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/130325/amnesty-international-offices-raided-moscow-civil-society