Campaign diary

Navalny calls on people to monitor election fraud

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Alexei Navalny talking about Putin’s expected election “victory” in his video today

by Sarah Hurst

Alexei Navalny has called on Russians to act as election observers on March 18 to register the fraud that is likely to occur. As he noted in a video published today, there were huge demonstrations after the fraudulent Duma election of December 2011. Since then there have been many more cases, including cases during the September 2017 local elections when Reuters reporters observed far fewer voters at polling stations than claimed by regional authorities.

Navalny continues to call for a boycott of the presidential election, but also needs to prove that the turnout is low – and he hopes to recruit tens of thousands of observers all over the country via his website. Volunteers will talk to potential observers, find out if they have any experience, and deploy them. If they are under age, they may help at locations other than polling stations, he said.

Putin under pressure

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov said today, unusually, that Putin has been suffering from a cold and has adjusted his schedule because of it. Dozhd TV reported that Putin was cancelling all of his forthcoming public appearances. The last time Putin dropped out of public view unexpectedly was shortly after the murder of Boris Nemtsov in March 2015. At the time it was rumoured that he was in a conflict with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, suspected of involvement in the Nemtsov murder.

The Kremlin has been having a difficult week, with reports emerging of possibly hundreds of Wagner group Russian military contractors being killed in a US military strike on pro-Assad forces in Syria, and an An-148 Saratov Airlines passenger plane crashing outside Moscow on Sunday, resulting in the deaths of all 71 people on board. The wreckage of the plane was spread over a large area and the human remains are only identifiable by DNA, which suggests the disaster could have been caused by a terrorist bomb, but few details have been announced by Russian authorities.

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