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Russia Detains Election-Monitoring Activist Hours Before Polls Open

Russian police detained an election-monitoring activist in Moscow just hours before city residents voted for city council candidates.

Vladimir Yegorov, a communications specialist for Golos, an independent election-monitoring organization, was detained and charged with hooliganism, his colleague Grigory Melkonyants said in a September 8 post on Facebook.

"So far we have been unable to contact Yegorov. His phone has been turned off and they are not allowing anyone to see him," Melkonyants said. "We have no doubt his detainment is connected to his work for fair elections."

OVD-Info, a group that monitors protests and arrests in Russia, also stated that Yegorov had been detained.

Golos is one of Russia's most prominent election-monitoring organizations. It has been repeatedly pressured by authorities in the past, and was labeled a "foreign agent" in 2013 under a law aimed at restricting nongovernmental organizations ability to receive foreign funding.

Russians go the polls September 8 for local and regional elections that are being seen as a test for the Kremlin and its regional allies.

All eyes will be on the vote for city council in Moscow, where dozens of independent candidates were barred from the ballot, sparking the biggest wave of demonstrations in years. Russian elections have historically been marred by fraud, such as ballot stuffing.

Golos officials have said the government has targeted their organization for uncovering widespread violations in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential vote, which helped kick off the first wave of political protests against the Kremlin.

Earlier this year Roman Udot, a board member of Golos, was arrested by Moscow police on charges of threatening to kill two correspondents working for the state-owned NTV television channel.

He has rejected the charges, calling them politically motivated, and said the case against him is in retaliation for an investigation into alleged election fraud.

Memorial human rights center called Udot's arrest an attempt by the authorities to hinder the agency's activities during Russia's regional and local elections in September.

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