State raids office of human rights group

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The Independent Online

Masked state investigators have raided the offices of a Russian human rights group and seized computers in what the group's staff said was a hunt for material deemed extremist.

Staff at the group, Memorial, in St Petersburg said the armed men removed computer hard drives and prevented them from leaving or making phone calls. They said police told them the search was linked to the publication of an article in a local newspaper defined as extremist by authorities. Documents, including a history of political repression in the Soviet Union and a computer-based tour of Stalin-era forced labour camps or gulags, were taken away, said Yuri Rybakov, a staff member. "All these years of work are now in the hands of investigators," he said. "This is an act of repression." A spokesman for the prosecutor-general said the search was part of an investigation about a newspaper article. Memorial says its aim is to promote awareness about persecution in the Soviet Union.