Exclusive: At a Russian polling station, phantom voters cast ballots for the ‘Tsar’

Reuters Staff

8 Min Read

VLADIKAVKAZ/IVNYA, Russia (Reuters) – At polling station no. 333 Within The Russian city of Vladikavkaz, Reuters newshounds best counted 256 voters casting their ballots in a regional election on Sunday.

People have been VOTING throughout Russia in what is considered as a gown rehearsal for next yr’s presidential vote. Kremlin candidates for regional parliaments and governorships performed strongly nationwide.

When the authentic results for polling station no. 333 were declared, the turnout used to be first given as 1,331 sooner than being revised as much as 1,867 on Tuesday. That’s more than seven occasions higher than the choice of voters counted by using Reuters – with Seventy Three p.c of the votes going to United Russia, the birthday party of President Vladimir Putin.

Election officials at the polling station mentioned their tally was right and there were no discrepancies.

Reuters journalists had been there when the polls opened at 08:00 except after the authentic depend had been achieved. They saw one man, who stated he was a United Russia election observer, approaching the pollfield a couple of times and every time putting within VOTE CASTING papers.

“We should make sure Eighty Five p.c for United Russia. In Any Other Case, the Tsar will stop offering us with money,” the man, Sergei Lyutikov, instructed a reporter, in an obvious reference to Putin.

Putin is the robust favorite to win re-election next year. Many Citizens credit him with restoring national pleasure. However, with the financial system forecast to grow only one % this year enthusiasm for Putin is just not as robust because it has been. Political analysts say that might result in a vulnerable election turnout.

Reuters journalists noticed the vote at six polling stations on Sunday. In Any Respect six the reporters found discrepancies, of varying sizes, between the official vote tally and the choice of voters the reporters counted.

The newshounds had been existing for the whole VOTING day aside from for in one place where a reporter neglected the beginning as a result of they were at first now not allowed in.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not in an instant reply to requests for comments for this story.

Alternatively, Peskov, on a convention call with journalists on Monday, said the vote confirmed People Trust Putin. He mentioned that there was once “zero tolerance” of fraud, with stories of violations of election rules being handled swiftly.

Citing election commission data, he said the amount of complaints were down on earlier elections, and in most cases the complaints were about secondary issues.

United Russia’s birthday party headquarters, in a remark despatched to Reuters, stated it gave no orders to any person to stuff ballots or falsify results. It said all violations could be examined through election commissions and, if the law used to be damaged, those accountable would be punished.

The six polling stations the Reuters reporters visited had been in three areas but there were lots of polling stations operating in Russia on Sunday so the events simplest provide a small image of what came about.

Reuters newshounds are unable to verify if such practices were common, or whether or not they had a subject material relating the end result of the election.

Opinion polls persistently exhibit that United Russia has more strengthen than every other Russian birthday party.

Golos, a non-governmental organization whose volunteers monitored the BALLOTING in 36 regions, said late on Monday it had bought experiences of 825 violations of election ideas. They integrated a couple of reports of inflated turnout figures and ballot-stuffing. Then Again, the NGO stated violations had been down in comparison with previous elections.

Russia’s important election fee, Asked concerning the discrepancies witnessed through Reuters did not in an instant reply.

Ella Pamfilova, chair of the fee, told a news conference after polls closed that the irregularities that had been stated to her fee would be investigated.

Sergei Lyutikov (L), who stated he was once an election observer of United Russia birthday party, sits at a polling station all over a regional election in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, Russia September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Soldatkin

THREATS

At polling station no. 333, located in an additional training college in Vladikavkaz, capital of the North Ossetia area, voters on Sunday had been electing a new regional parliament.

Lyutikov was there throughout the day. He works as an aide to Vadim Suanov, a United Russia deputy Within The outgoing North Ossetia regional legislature, in line with the legislature’s website online. Suanov, who used to be working for re-election on Sunday, instructed Reuters he knew nothing about what his worker did In The polling station.

Lyutikov solid his pollWithin The first hours of VOTING however later inserted ballot papers about 10 instances, according to the Reuters witnesses.

Lyutikov advised a Reuters reporter not to file him at the ballot field, threatening to break her mobile phone if the photographs and video footage were not deleted. At one point, he confirmed a reporter his passport, along with his identify, Sergei Ivanovich Lyutikov and his date of beginning, April 17 1984.

Whereas he was once drawing near the pollfield, he was in sight of Yelena Khadonova, the chair of the election fee for polling station no.333.

Requested about Lyutikov’s movements, she mentioned: “I Have nothing to comment on. I haven’t considered the rest.”

HOUSE VOTING

At a parliamentary election final September, Reuters newshounds at a number of polling stations found circumstances of inflated turnout and ballot-stuffing. Russia election chiefs said they’d inspect, and the police launched their very own investigation.

After Sunday’s vote, Kremlin candidates had been on the right track to win in all Sixteen areas where governors have been being elected, consistent with preliminary results. In The six regions the place parliaments had been being elected, including in North Ossetia, United Russia used to be in relaxed first location.

United Russia used to be less dominant in municipal elections in components of Moscow, where reinforce for opposition candidates is traditionally enhanced.

At some other vicinity, polling station no. 618 in Belgorod area, a Reuters reporter accompanied election officers on their visits to voters’ homes to manage HOME VOTE CASTING. The choice of DWELLING voters was equal to a couple of quarter of people who voted at the polling station.

Beneath Russia’s electoral principles, VOTING at house is reserved for circumstances where a voter has particularly requested a talk over with, because for well being reasons they are unable to make it to a polling station.

Kremlin opponents and unbiased displays say RESIDENCE BALLOTING is open to abuse because it isn’t topic to the same scrutiny as VOTE CASTING in a polling station, the place screens from several events, and journalists, are continuously existing.

Despite the rule of thumb that RESIDENCE VOTING is best supplied on request, a number of of the People visited by the election officers at their homes mentioned they’d now not Asked to vote at HOME.

The election officers entered most of homes with out knocking on the door. One man in his sixties used to be smoking a cigarette in his outside when the election officials arrived.

“First construct a highway and then we’ll speak,” he advised the officers, pointing at a bumpy course resulting in his house. He denied he Requested them to return, however still solid his vote.

The officials mentioned a relative or neighbor can have made the request on his behalf.

Over the route of two hours, all over which the reporter used to be with the officers always, they accumulated 14 stuffed pollpapers. When the officers returned to the polling station, that they had 18 filled pollpapers.

The officers who made the shuttle stated the tally used to be proper. The Head of the election fee at polling station no. 618, Lyubov Grushko, mentioned: “The Variation in numbers is a provocative difficulty, we gained’t speak about it.”

Reporting by means of Vladimir Soldatkin, Kevin O’Flynn and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber in VLADIKAVKAZ, Maria Tsvetkova Gleb Stolyarov and Olesya Astakhova in SASOVO and Anton Zverev, Anastasiya Lyrchikova and Darya Korsunskaya in IVNYA; Writing with the aid of Maria Tsvetkova and Christian Lowe; Editing with the aid of Anna Willard

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