Russia: Kremlin calls independent vote monitor ′foreign agent′ | News | DW | 19.08.2021

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Russia: Kremlin calls independent vote monitor 'foreign agent'

The election monitoring group Golos has been added to a list of organizations with foreign backers. The move comes a month before Russia's parliamentary vote.

A woman casts her ballot in front of portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Golos angered the Kremlin after denouncing past election rigging

Russia's justice ministry placed the independent election monitoring group Golos on a list of "foreign agents" on Wednesday, a month before Russians head to the polls.

The decision is likely to hamper the work of the electoral observers during the parliamentary elections on September 19. President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party is expected to struggle at the ballot box.

"We have no doubts that the current attack on the largest community of independent elections observers just a month before the day of the vote is an attempt to prevent the citizens of Russia from using the right to observe (the elections)," Golos said in a statement.

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Accusations of foreign funding

Golos was first founded in 2000 as a non-governmental organization but became one of the first groups to be declared a foreign agent in 2013. It subsequently dissolved and reformed as a civil movement.

The "foreign agent" label is nominally intended for organizations with funding coming from outside of Russia. Critics say that it is a means of cracking down on dissent.

A document from the justice ministry pointed to an Armenian citizen as a source of the group's funding. Grigory Melkonyants, one of the movement's co-chairs, called the claim "nonsense" on social media.

Designated groups are forced to comply with complex bureaucratic procedures. Nevertheless, Golos urged Russians to volunteer as electoral observers.

Crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections

Golos, which means "voice" or "vote" in Russian, drew the ire of the Kremlin after denouncing election rigging in the 2011 parliamentary election and the 2012 presidential election.

The organization also reported receiving hundreds of complaints of violations during a constitutional referendum held last year.

September's election has already been mired in controversy after several opposition figures connected with Putin's main political rival Alexei Navalny were barred from standing.

Recent polls suggest that less than 30% of Russians will vote for the ruling United Russia party. They acquired over 50% of the vote in the 2016 parliamentary elections.

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ab/rc (Reuters, AFP)