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Moscow Officials Accused Of Paying To Fish Opposition Leaflets From Mailboxes

Maksim Katz, campaign manager for one opposition candidate, accused city authorities of paying men to take campaign leaflets.
Maksim Katz, campaign manager for one opposition candidate, accused city authorities of paying men to take campaign leaflets.

Despite signs of voter apathy, opposition candidates in the Russian capital are cautiously optimistic about their chances ahead of municipal elections. Considering the relatively large number of legitimate anti-Kremlin candidates that are running, their hope is that a few will manage to win seats on September 10.

That doesn't necessarily mean they will have a clear path to victory, however, with signs emerging of an effort to keep voters from casting ballots and indications that local authorities are either turning a blind eye, encouraging, or even funding it.

One opposition candidate appears to have provided visual evidence of electoral machinations.

The head of the election campaign for opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov has uploaded a video to YouTube that shows two unidentified men removing papers from a bank of mailboxes inside a Moscow apartment block.

Maksim Katz claimed the men targeted opposition candidates' campaign leaflets. Katz also accused city authorities of paying the men, although he offered no proof.

Amid the claims, Ella Pamfilova, the head of Russia's Central Election Commission, has urged law enforcement and Moscow authorities to punish such perpetrators, promising to monitor the situation closely.

Vedomosti newspaper said a source inside the Russian presidential administration had claimed that Moscow Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova was behind a campaign to weaken voter turnout in the Russian capital.

Rakova was asked to comment on the charge by Current Time, the Russian-language TV network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

"I won't make a comment, and I have no relation to the municipal elections. Everyone can blame anyone for anything," Rakova said.

With early voting taking place in Moscow, voting irregularities, and possible violations, have already been observed.

Yulia Galyamina, who is running in the election, made allegations that "carousel" voting -- in which voters cast ballots repeatedly at different polling stations -- had taken place in the Timiryazev district of Moscow.

Galyamina also said that, even if voters make it to the polls, they will face confusion. She said that many of the candidates passing themselves off as "independent" are so in name only.

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