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Three Of A Kind: Another Set Of Russian 'Clone' Candidates Makes Headlines

By Andrei Afanasyev September 09, 2021

If you're following Russia's current political campaign, you've probably heard of the "clone" candidates competing for votes in a single district of St. Petersburg, provoking a lively discussion about Russian elections and the dirty tricks often deployed to bolster candidates backed by the state at the expense of politicians who oppose it.

The three Boris Vishnevskys now have counterparts in Belogorsk, a town in the Amur region in Russia's Far East, where independent journalist Natalya Mikhailova finds herself facing two other candidates who share the same name. And in contrast to the St. Petersburg trio, her rivals even have the same patronymic: Yuryevna.

Mikhailova told RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities that her rivals were spoiler candidates pitted against her in order to siphon votes away from a legitimate politician.

"How can she defend the interests of Belogorsk residents?" she said of one of the namesakes, who lives more than 100 kilometers away in the regional capital, Blagoveshchensk. "It's obvious that she's an appointee of [the ruling United Russia party]."

Mikhailova herself is a bona fide candidate with political experience. She is a lawmaker in the Belogorsk city council and is known locally for exposing embezzlement of government funds for transportation as a journalist and chief editor of local outlet Prosto gazeta, which translates as Just A Paper.

She is running on the ticket of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which is part of Russia's state-approved so-called "systemic opposition" but often fields candidates that beat the United Russia party and oppose its policies in parliament.

Her investigations into corruption among local officials have landed her in the headlines. After one report, her car was set on fire.

After another, a local official who was a subject of Mikhailova's probe was arrested for embezzlement.

Now, voters may have a tough time distinguishing a muckraking journalist from two women with no public profile -- and critics say that's exactly the point.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-elections -journalist-clones/31451779.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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