Maria wasn't at home on the morning eight masked officers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles broke down her front door. They took family photos, four laptops, a bunch of books and several white ribbons - the symbol of the protest movement opposed to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
They took a pin with a pink triangle, a symbol of gay rights activism. They even took an ultrasound from when she was pregnant with her son six years ago. ''I later asked them: do you think my child was planning unrest?'' Baronova, 28, said.
While the eyes of the world have been focused on the three members of the punk band Pussy Riot who were jailed earlier this month for hooliganism - in a case that has prompted widespread condemnation of Russia's politicised justice system and crackdown on freedom of expression - dozens of others have been caught up in what activists warn is a burgeoning repression of the opposition.
Baronova is one of more than a dozen people charged in connection with an anti-Putin protest held on May 6, the eve of the President's inauguration. It was the only protest to turn violent, clashes with riot police erupting after thousands of demonstrators were prevented from entering the rally site. In the weeks that followed, injured riot police were handed free flats. Baronova and others were charged with provoking mass unrest and face up to two years in prison if found guilty.
Since then, her life has been turned upside-down. She devotes hours every week to meeting her lawyer and officials from Russia's Investigative Committee, which raided her flat in early June. Although others have been confined to pre-detention centres, Baronova has been banned from leaving Moscow.
In late June, she was visited by social services, who said they had received a complaint about her parenting of her five-year-old son. They searched the flat and asked why she had English-language books, why there were cigarettes on the kitchen table, whether the violin met sanitary norms. ''That's when I realised I'm in a nuthouse,'' she said.
Baronova didn't stop her activism. When floods ravaged the southern town of Krymsk in July, killing more than 170 people, she helped organise a huge donation effort amid criticism of the government's response. She began receiving odd phone calls. Coming home with her son and boyfriend one night, she was confronted by graffiti scrawled across the door with her flat along with the words: ''Bitch, return the money, evil creature.''
''There is no doubt that there has been a turn in the policy towards those defiant Russians who dare challenge the government,'' said Masha Lipman, an analyst at Moscow's Carnegie Centre. ''In addition to the cases that have become public, there is a lot of intimidation going on.''
Opposition activists have been at pains to publicise the harassment. This month, Alexey Navalny, an anti-corruption activist who has become the opposition's de-facto leader, live-tweeted the discovery of a bugging device in his office. A week earlier he was charged with embezzlement and banned from leaving the country.
Navalny has called the charges, which allege in 2009 he organised a scheme to steal timber from a state-owned company while acting as adviser to a regional governor, absurd. He faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. A similar case against him was closed this year.
At the reading of the verdict against Pussy Riot, defence lawyers tried to usher Navalny and Baronova into the courtroom, to the dismay of many journalists gathered outside pushing to get in. ''What they don't understand is - we're next,'' Baronova said.
Baronova worked as a sales manager at a chemical supply company until she began devoting all her time to the opposition movement following Putin's announcement in September that he would be returning to the presidency. Many were outraged that the man who has ruled Russia since 2000 could return for two six-year terms. ''I realised my kid would be 18 in 12 years and I will be 40 - I'll have to live my whole youth with him,'' she said.
About 400 people were arrested on and around the May 6 protest. ''We knew people were detained, but we were all busy with our own stuff,'' Baronova said. ''We didn't know these people or what was really happening.''
Since then, the ominous signs have grown, Lipman said. The Duma, Russia's parliament, passed a series of laws that appear to be designed to rein in an opposition movement that has brought tens of thousands of people into the streets, and tens of thousands more into critical forums online. New laws have drastically raised fines for illegal protest and created an internet blacklist that activists fear could be used to censor online content. Non-governmental organisations that receive foreign grants are now required to identify themselves as ''foreign agents''.
Opposition deputies have also come under pressure. Gennady Gudkov, a member of the Just Russia party who issued stark warnings in the autumn of the coming popular discontent, has seen the Investigative Committee threaten to bring charges of illegal profiteering. At least four activists who were at the May 6 protest have fled the country amid fears charges will be brought against them.
Baronova said it would be a ''moral crime'' to flee. Anyway, her ex-husband has refused to provide permission for her to leave Russia with their son, thwarting her plans to get a PhD abroad. ''That's when I had the feeling of being in jail,'' she said. ''I'm tired of being in a cold civil war.''