Russian military personnel in three settlements of the northwestern Murmansk region were gathered on September 7 to cast ballots early in Russia’s September 17-19 legislative elections, according to a report in Novaya gazeta the same day.
The Novaya gazeta story was based on reports from service members’ families collected by Oleg Cherkashin, an opposition candidate running for a seat in the Murmansk regional legislature.
According to the report, military polling station No. 492 was granted special permission by the regional election commission to hold early voting from September 7-10 because of scheduled military exercises.
The exact time of the voting was not reported to the regional election commission or to election monitors -- who were therefore not present when ballots were being cast or counted.
In a video posted on the VK social network, Cherkashin accused United Russia of colluding with the Defense Ministry to falsify the election.
“United Russia understands that it cannot win the election honestly and so it is beginning to do things like this, even involving the military and anyone else they can get,” he said. “And it is easy to guess what the results of this voting will be when there are no monitors and the commanding officer is standing over them and watching how they vote.”
The Russian authorities have long been accused by activists and the opposition of using various means to pressure service personnel and state-sector workers to vote for United Russia, the ruling party that is loyal to President Vladimir Putin.
In August, Putin signed off on one-time payments of 15,000 rubles ($200) to firefighters, police officers, prosecutors, and soldiers, a move that many saw as an attempt to buy the votes of key constituencies in the face of United Russia’s declining popularity.