Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Russians Look Into Putin’s Soul and See a Thief
Voters Watch Polls in Russia, and Fraud Is What They See
MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 1:04 a.m.
MOSCOW — The shot opens at the top of a flight of stairs and zooms in shakily on a gray-haired man, who sits at a desk furtively checking off what appear to be ballots — a stack of them.
The video is shot with the grain and chop of an amateur. But it is apparently sharp enough.
“A big hello to you,” says the cameraman, Yegor Duda, a 33-year-old volunteer election observer. “This is a violation of the criminal code. The chairman of the electoral commission is filling out ballots. Everything has been captured on the video camera,” he said.
Mr. Duda raced home and uploaded the clip to YouTube. Though just three minutes long, it quickly became an election-day sensation that officials could not ignore.
On Monday, Valentin Gorbunov, the head of the Moscow City Elections Commission, confirmed the substance of the video and announced that Russian investigators had opened a case into ballot tampering by the head at Polling Place No. 2501, where the episode occurred, Russian news agencies reported.
Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Monday that they, too, had observed blatant fraud, including the brazen stuffing of ballot boxes. While the monitors declined to draw firm conclusions, it was clear from their report that vote stealing and other alleged malfeasance might have spared the presumed beneficiary, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia, an even worse blow than it officially received.
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