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Upset? Or just hungry?

MOSCOW – The results of Russia’s presidential election were never in doubt: another six-year term for the incumbent, Vladimir Putin.

But that doesn’t mean election day passed with no surprises.

Here are some of the more flagrant instances of election violations and notable shenanigans recorded around the country:

1. Mob Attacks Monitors

At Polling Station No. 1,126 in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan, observers and journalists flagged several election violations, including repeated ballot-stuffing and a physical attack on election monitors.

The first violation was caught by a security camera shortly after the polling station opened, when a woman who appears to be a station official is seen sneaking out of the room before returning with a handful of ballots, which she stuffs into a ballot box. The stack is so thick it gets caught for a moment in the box’s slot.

Not long after, the same security camera shows what was described by witnesses as a mob of young men entering the polling station before violently dragging monitors out of sight of the ballot box. Then, with the monitors and voters distracted, two men go to work stuffing ballots into the abandoned ballot boxes. Video of the incident had been viewed tens of thousands of times by the time of this story’s publication.

Max Seddon, a journalist with The Financial Times who was at the polling station when the attack occurred, later posted a photograph of a monitor who he reported had been injured by the mob.

Golos, the respected independent election monitor, reported that as of late afternoon Moscow time, it had received at least 2,263 reports of alleged violations.

2. Man Eats Ballot

One apparently upset – or hungry? – voter in the Siberian city of Omsk filmed himself eating his ballot.

Aleksei Navalny, arguably Putin’s biggest challenger, who was barred from running over a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated, had urged Russians to boycott the presidential vote.

Many voters protested the election by defacing their ballot with remarks such as “Give Us Back Our Elections, You Creeps.”

3. The Ol’ ‘Get-The-Old-Lady-To-Do-It’ Trick

Of the many recorded instances of apparent ballot-stuffing, one stood out because of how it exploited an elderly voter.

As the woman struggles to slip her completed ballot into the ballot box at Novokuznetsk’s Polling Station No. 626, another woman comes over, grabs the ballot, walks away, and then returns a moment later with what looks like several ballots. She then proceeds to show the woman how to properly drop them into the box, which she eventually does.

4. Balloon Block

At Precinct No. 268 in Kemerovo, central Russia, a security camera catches the moment when election officials begin counting ballots.

Just as they are about to dump a box full of ballots onto a table, a woman believed to be the precinct’s chairwoman strolls toward the camera and maneuvers a cluster of balloons in front of it, blocking the view of the room -- and the ballots -- for a full 90 seconds.

5. Man Wall

At Precinct No. 144 in Kumyshskoye, in the North Caucasus republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, some men took up positions reminiscent of a soccer defensive wall, blocking the security camera’s view of the ballot box.

Bobomurod Abdullaev

TASHKENT -- A judge says that a medical examination has not confirmed torture claims by an Uzbek journalist who is on trial.

Judge Zafar Nurmatov said on March 15 at the trial of Bobomurod Abdullaev that "results of a complex medical examination" on Abdullaev had come back negative.

On March 7, when the trial of Abdullaev and his three co-defendants began, Nurmatov approved the defense team’s request to allow the defendant to undergo a medical examination, after no objections were raised by prosecutors.

The trial of Abdullaev, blogger Hayot Hon Nasriddinov, businessmen Ravshan Salaev, and Shavkat Olloyorov -- is being closely watched by human rights advocates, opposition activists, and journalists as a test of the government’s vow to reform Uzbek society.

A freelance journalist and contributor to the Fergana news agency and other media outlets, Abdullaev is charged with "conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime," which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

His lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, said last week that his client was tortured into making self-incriminating statements.

Mayorov said Abdullaev was tortured for several days after he was detained on a street in the capital, Tashkent, by security service officers on September 27.

Abdullayev was kept naked in his cell for several days and threatened that his daughter who lives in Russia would be raped, his other children living in Uzbekistan would be killed, and his wife would be jailed, Mayorov said.

The charges against Abdullaev and his co-defendants stem from a series of articles under the byline Usman Haqnazarov, which has been used by more than one person. The articles touched on issues related to circles close to the late former President Islam Karimov, who ruled the Central Asian country with an iron fist for more than a quarter of a century before his death in 2016.

The trial is seen as a test for President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who has promised reforms, and of his government's commitment to overhauling the justice system and addressing widespread allegations of abuse by security services.

Last month, 12 human rights groups called for Abdullaev's immediate release and an independent investigation of allegations that he was tortured.

Mirziyoev, a longtime prime minister who came to power after Karimov's death was announced in September 2016, has been shaking up the government structures, in particular the powerful security services and Interior Ministry.

In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Uzbek authorities had taken "some positive steps" during Mirziyoev’s first year but still needs to make "sustainable" improvements on human rights.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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