Since then, the family business, one of Russia's leading security firms with about 7,000 employees, has been hit with a wave of inspections from the police, fire department, and even the Moscow architectural control committee, which resulted in the suspension of its license to allow its security guards to carry weapons in Moscow.
Inspections are currently going on in most of the other 20 Russian regions where the company, Oskord International, operates. Without the 200 or so guns – only small pistols and smooth bore rifles, Gudkov says – in the company's arsenal, its security guards have had to stop working.
Gudkov insists the company, which has worked for the United Nations and Russian law enforcement agencies in the past, has sailed through regular inspections every three months for the past decade and has never experienced a problem with its registered firearms or their method of storage before.
"Now our business in Moscow is all but ruined, and we're being hit in the regions," he says. "I have no doubt that this is punishment directed at me for my civic position and my support of the protest movement. What's happening to me is being repeated all over the country in various ways to hundreds of other people right now, most of them not so well known as me. There is one organizing force behind all this, and that is the Kremlin administration."
Yesterday, Gudkov announced that he will be selling the company at a huge loss, wrecking his retirement plans. "I took the path of Khodorkovsky, and now I am really afraid," he told the Moscow daily Izvestia, referring to the fate of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who defied Putin and subsequently was arrested, his business empire destroyed by selective legal actions. Mr. Khodorkovsky, prosecuted in two trials that most independent experts believe were politically motivated, has spent the past nine years in a Siberian penal colony.