MOSCOW (AP) — Russian prosecutors and tax police searched the Moscow headquarters of Amnesty International and several other rights groups Monday, continuing a wave of pressure that activists say is part of President Vladimir Putin's attempt to stifle dissent.
Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty's Russia chief, told The Associated Press that officials from the general prosecutor's office and tax police conducted an unannounced audit of his offices. Nikitin said the officials requested documents from the human rights watchdog that the government already has on file.
They were accompanied by journalists from the state-controlled NTV television station, which has been used by the Kremlin for hatchet jobs against its political foes.
Other rights groups were also subject to searches.
Veteran activist Lev Ponomarev's For Human Rights movement was also visited by officials and an NTV crew on Monday. He wrote a letter to the Moscow prosecutor's office calling the search illegal, since prosecutors provided no evidence that his organization broke the law.
Public Verdict, a well-known human rights law group, was also searched Monday.
Putin has long been suspicious of NGOs, especially those with American funding, which he has accused of being fronts for U.S. meddling in Russian politics.
After he returned to the presidency in May, parliament rubber-stamped a Kremlin-backed law requiring all NGOs who receive foreign funding to register as "foreign agents," a term that many Russians find pejorative.