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Italian police raid climate activists over Gazprom protest

Italian police raided the homes of three climate activists early Thursday over accusations they damaged the offices of two gas importers with business links to Russian energy company Gazprom.

The three activists, Sergio 26, Jacopo, 29 and Ila, 28 — who didn’t want to give their full names — are from the Greta Thunberg-inspired Fridays For Future climate movement. They said that six police officers arrived at each of their homes in Milan at 6 a.m. with a warrant.

The warrant, which they shared with POLITICO, had the letterhead of Milan’s public prosecutor’s office. It said they were suspected of vandalizing a building in Milan that houses the offices of Centrex and Weedoo, which the document said were natural gas importers “involved in the sale and supply of gas and energy on behalf of GAZPROM.”

The public prosecutor didn’t reply to requests to verify the document.

Centrex Italia is owned by Austria-based natural gas trading and storage group Centrex Europe Energy & Gas AG, which is a unit of Gazprom Export. Centrex Italia is also a majority owner of Weedoo.

The activists told POLITICO that the prosecutor accused them of writing graffiti on March 19 on the office building. They wanted to highlight the role of companies selling energy supplied by the Russian state company in fueling the war in Ukraine.

In the warrant, the prosecutor’s office said it had raided the homes to retrieve electronic devices that had been used to organize the alleged crime.

The activists said that the officers searched their houses and confiscated mobile phones as well as some clothes, books, activist leaflets and even ‘peace flags.’ Sergio alleged that in his case, police ordered him to strip naked and squat to make sure he wasn’t hiding anything.

The raid was necessary to prevent evidence from being destroyed, the warrant said.

“I am shocked,” Sergio said. “At the beginning I was really scared but now I’m really angry because everyone is talking about … the lack of democracy in Russia, and now these things are happening here too.”

Neither Centrex nor Weedoo responded to requests for comment.

Giulia Poloni contributed reporting.

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