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Russia 2018: Kremlin Countdown

A tip sheet on Russia's March 18 presidential election delivering RFE/RL and Current Time TV news, videos, and analysis along with links to what our Russia team is watching. Compiled by RFE/RL correspondents and editors.

50 Ways To Love Your Putin: Russian TV Fawns Over Election Drive

By Carl Schreck

An independent Russian election-monitoring group has accused television networks -- primarily state-controlled -- of violating election laws by delivering free campaign advertising for President Vladimir Putin ahead of the March presidential election he is widely expected to win.

Golos, which Russia authorities have designated a "foreign agent" under a controversial law on nongovernmental organizations, alleged this week that federal, regional, and local networks have aired dozens of segments in recent weeks that constitute "illegal campaigning" for Putin.

These reports, which focus mainly on a nationwide "volunteer" drive to collect the 300,000 valid signatures Putin must submit to register as an independent for the March 18 election, feature clearly slanted reporting in Putin’s favor and, in most cases, are not connected to his job as president, Golos said in a January 16 statement.


Sobchak Campaign Chief's Car Torched In 'Arson' Attack

Hours after the head of Ksenia Sobchak's campaign had been in Grozny.

From our news desk:

Shirobokov used his car to travel to Moscow with signatures of local supporters of Sobchak as part of the procedure necessary to officially register her as a candidate in the March 18 election.

The campaigners said the fire was a planned arson attack and asked local police to investigate.

Hours before the car fire in Pskov, Sobchak was in the capital of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, where she held a protest at a memorial to slain journalists and held a sign reading, "Freedom for Oyub Titiyev!"

At Least 350 Detained At Election Boycott Rallies In Russia

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW -- At least 350 people, including opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, were detained across Russia as they rallied in support of an election boycott on January 28.

The anticorruption crusader was dragged by police into a bus shortly after joining a rally of more than 1,000 people on Moscow's central thoroughfare on January 28, according to a live video feed from the scene.


Our Moscow correspondent at the protest.

16x9 Image Tony Wesolowsky

Riga-based Russian-language news site Meduza offered a quick video take -- under two minutes -- on the January 28 election-boycott rallies in Russia.

16x9 Image Robert Coalson

An interview with liberal political scientist Aleksandr Kynev about the view of the election in the regions. No intrigue over who will win, he says, but officials are worried that the "absolute number of votes might turn out to be the lowest result in the entire history of [post-Soviet] elections."

Kynev criticizes candidate Ksenia Sobchak's "against all" strategy, saying anyone knows that voting for any candidate other than Putin is the same as a vote "against all." He says that Sobchak's already-high negative rating has grown over the course of the campaign.

Day After Nationwide Protests, Kremlin Says Navalny No Threat

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says the Kremlin does not consider opposition leader Aleksei Navalny a threat.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke to reporters on January 29, a day after thousands of people demonstrated in cities nationwide in support of Navalny's call for a boycott of the March 18 election that appears certain to extend Putin's rule.

A respected independent monitor said police detained at least 350 people including Navalny, who has been barred from challenging Putin in the election due to a financial-crimes conviction that he and his supporters contend was Kremlin-engineered retribution for his opposition activity.

16x9 Image Tom Balmforth

The Kremlin is portraying potential U.S. sanctions and the publication of a list of Kremlin-connected insiders and businessmen as attempts to meddle in Russia’s March 18 elections. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells Russian media like Life News: “This is an attempt to influence the elections,” he said. “But we are sure there will be no impact.”

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