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Russian Officials Claim 'Outside Forces' Seek To Disrupt Kostroma Vote

Police in the central Russian region of Kostroma say they have confiscated 2 million rubles ($30,000) from an activist of the Open Russia nongovernmental organization.

Police said on September 12 that the money was found late the previous day. A press statement alleged "the money was to be paid out to the activists of radical youth groups who were planning unlawful actions" to disrupt the region's September 13 gubernatorial and local elections.

Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov said on September 12 that "outside forces" were interested in seeing the region's elections fail.

In a separate incident, Aleksey Navalny, an anticorruption activist and leader of the unregistered Party of Progress, wrote on his Facebook page that an opposition campaign member was taken by authorities from a train in the Kostroma region for carrying 200,000 rubles (nearly $3,000) on September 12.

Navalny wrote that the money has been officially withdrawn from the campaign funds to pay for opposition election observers' hotel fees.

"It seems that major falsifications are waiting for us tomorrow, otherwise why they would need this circus," he wrote.

Although Russia will hold local elections in 83 regions for more than 90,000 legislative seats and offices, Kostroma is the only region where the genuinely opposition Parnas bloc has been allowed to participate.

Parnas had said earlier it plans to field 800 election observers across the region in order to monitor any possible vote fraud.

The Russian NGO Golos, which monitors elections nationally, said on September 10 that it had registered more than 700 suspected cases of electoral fraud.

"This is the first time there has been so much vote rigging before the elections," former Economy Minister Andrei Nechayev told the AFP news agency.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax

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