Russian Social Media Swamped With Video Evidence Of Ballot-Box Stuffing
By Robert Coalson September 18, 2021
Even though the Russian authorities no longer allow the public to see the live video feeds from polling stations as the country votes, many videos from polling stations across the country have emerged that seem to show flagrant ballot-box stuffing.
A "really shocking number" of such videos appeared on the first day of voting in the September 17-19 parliamentary and local elections, U.S.-based political analyst Andras Toth-Czifra wrote on Twitter. Allegations made by those who posted the videos could not be independently verified.
Here is a partial rundown of the footage:
A video from Bryansk Oblast polling station 475 seemed to show a person whose head was covered with a jacket placing at least a dozen ballots into a ballot box. The person who posted the video to Twitter identified the perpetrator as a member of the polling station commission.
According to Mediazona, Communist Party observers at the polling station estimated that a total of 300 extra ballots were added to the total there.
Also in the Bryansk region, at polling station 131, the Communist Party posted a video appearing to show an election official putting a number of ballots into a ballot box.
An election monitor in St. Petersburg posted a video of a young man at polling station 1615 attempting to place eight ballots in a ballot box. After observers caught him red-handed, he was escorted away by a police officer.
On September 18, the same election monitor was met by several "provocateurs" outside polling station 1641. She said they began fighting among themselves, and police quickly detained both them and her.
Dozhd TV posted a video from St. Petersburg polling station 2189 in which police can be seen stopping a woman with a large number of ballot papers in her bag. The Dozhd correspondent reported earlier that he had seen the woman on the street talking to the head of the polling station and had seen them get into a car together.
A video from St. Petersburg polling station 1809 seemed to show a man placing a large number of ballots into a ballot box in full view of polling station workers. Their only reaction was to direct the man to the exit after he finished.
The account of jailed Yabloko party candidate Andrei Pivovarov posted a video from polling station 3667 in the Moscow Oblast town of Balashikha showing an election worker giving a large number of ballot papers to a young man before he entered the voting booth.
In another video, the same poll worker can be seen giving multiple ballot papers to a woman while another young man emerges from behind the curtain and feeds about seven ballots into the ballot box.
Pivovarov's account posted two more videos from the same polling station, all of them seeming to show people placing multiple ballot papers in the ballot boxes.
Mikhail Lobanov -- a candidate from Moscow for the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament house -- posted a photograph of a full ballot box from Moscow polling station 3487, saying that he had observed ballot box stuffing and had summoned the police.
The next day he posted a video from a session of the regional election commission at which his complaint had been rejected. He promised to appeal the ruling.
A video apparently from polling station 1660 in the Bashkortostan region appeared to show two young women feeding dozens of ballots into ballot boxes one after another.
A video from polling station 550 in Saratov Oblast also seemed to show two women feeding dozens of ballots into two ballot boxes. The Communist Party in that region called the incident "another criminal act."
And a video from polling station 98 in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Sevastopol also showed a group of people -- apparently polling station officials -- feeding large numbers of ballots into two ballot boxes while a woman sitting a meter away from them watches.
The elections come at a time when the ruling United Russia party, one of President Vladimir Putin's main levers of power, is polling at historically low popularity and amid a massive state crackdown on opposition candidates, independent civic organizations, and independent media.
Analysts say the Kremlin's main goal is for United Russia to maintain its constitutional two-thirds majority in the 450-seat Duma.
RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report
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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