Russian arrests as ballot boxes targeted in Putin voteon March 15, 2024 at 5:41 pm

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At least eight people are held for a series of attacks including green dye being poured into ballot boxes.

A woman pours a liquid into a ballot box, during the Russian presidential election in Moscow, Russia, in this screen grab taken from a video recording of a screen showing CCTV footage, March 15, 2024Image source, Reuters

Several people have been detained for vandalism at polling stations on the first day of voting in presidential elections, Russian officials say.

Incidents involved green dye being poured into ballot boxes, the boxes being set alight and fireworks being set off inside polling stations, state media reported.

Vladimir Putin is certain to win six more years in office after the vote.

However, officials have called on law enforcement officers to be vigilant.

Most of the incidents were reported at polling stations in Moscow, Voronezh in south Russia, and the region of Karachay-Cherkessia in the north Caucasus, according to state news agency Tass.

Electoral authorities in St Petersburg said a woman had thrown a petrol bomb near a polling station but the fire was put out. In one video posted on social media another woman was seen pouring bright green liquid into a ballot box in Moscow.

Voting is taking place in Russia over three days until Sunday. The result is not in doubt as Mr Putin has no credible opponent, however state-run media said that turnout had reached 23% by late afternoon in Moscow.

Russia has also enforced the vote in occupied areas of Ukraine and Russian-appointed officials in the small town of Skadovsk said an improvised device exploded in a rubbish bin in front of a polling station without causing injuries.

At least eight people have been arrested although officials have not said if the acts of vandalism were protests against Mr Putin.

Fire at a polling station at a school in Kogalym, Khanty-Mansi, Okrug region, among protests and vandalism on the first day of voting in Russia, 15 March 2024

Image source, NOEL reports

After the death of his most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny, in an Arctic prison last month, his widow Yulia Navalnaya called on the Russian leader’s opponents to go en masse to polling stations at noon on Sunday to register their protest.

She has urged the West not to recognise Mr Putin’s fifth term as president and Nato’s secretary general has said the vote will not be free and fair.

The deputy chairman of the Russia’s Central Election Committee, Nikolay Bulayev, said on Friday there had been five incidents involving liquids being poured into ballot boxes.

According to Interfax news agency, the attacks involving the Zelyonka “brilliant green” dye took place at around 11:00 Moscow time (08:00 GMT). Zelyonka is widely used locally as an antiseptic solution but has been used in protests in Russia and Ukraine.

Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova described the saboteurs as “scumbags” and said some of those detained for filling ballot boxes with liquids admitted that they had done it for money, and warned that perpetrators could be jailed for up to five years.

One of those detained had been promised 100,000 roubles (£850; $1,080), she was quoted as saying.

Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was unfortunate that acts of vandalism had taken place at polling stations in parts of Russia.

“I call on law enforcement agencies at the polling stations to be vigilant and take all possible measures within their abilities to preserve the ballots and ensure the free expression of the will of citizens,” she wrote on her Telegram channel.

According to some videos posted on Telegram, some of of the people who vandalised the ballot boxes reportedly shouted pro-Ukrainian slogans.

Polling stations opened in the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia’s easternmost region, at 08:00 local time on Friday (20:00 GMT on Thursday) and will finally close in the westernmost Kaliningrad exclave at 20:00 on Sunday.

Map showing Russian time zones
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