The main party backing Vladimir Putin is well ahead of parliamentary elections, early exit polls revealed today amid a torrent of allegations of vote fraud.
Polls from the Russian Far East suggested the pro-Kremlin United Russia had between 40 and 45 percent of the vote, with the communists in second place at about 18 percent.
The ultra-nationalist Liberal Democrats pushed ten percent, while other parties struggled in single-digit numbers.
Another vote-based exit poll in Moscow and St Petersburg suggested United Russia had 44 percent and the opposition communists 21 percent.
But shocking videos were revealed that allegedly show illegal manipulation in favor of the main pro-Putin party, which experts expect to win a clear majority.
In Vladivostok, a camera behind a factory showed an official who apparently marked blank ballots much earlier.
In Belovo, in the Kemerovo region, a hidden figure behind a woman in yellow repeatedly stuffs ballots into a ballot box.
In the Bryansk region, two women are seen putting ballots in a box, while laughter is heard at the polling station.
In Pyotr Dubrava, Samara region, at polling station 706, an election official – marked in a red box – is seen filling out papers before boldly walking over to place them in a ballot box
In Belovo, Kemerovo region, a hidden figure behind a woman I repeatedly puts ballot papers in a ballot box
A medical worker, left, helps a patient vote in a hospital during parliamentary elections in Voronezh, Russia
In Pyotr Dubrava, Samara region, at polling station 706, an election official is seen filling out papers before walking audaciously to the polls to put them in a ballot box.
Most of the ‘abuse’ took place in full view of CCTV cameras.
All of these cases are highlighted by opposition sites as evidence of manipulation in the key parliamentary elections.
There were reports of voters being bribed in TransBaikal, where one said he was offered 150 rubles (1.50 pounds) for his vote, as well as in Yakutia and Novosibirsk.
Elsewhere, there were claims of people driving around polling stations to vote multiple times.
At a polling station in Yakutia, some 30 percent of the ballot papers had not arrived, raising fears that they had been filled out illegally, to be added to the vote count.
In three regions, local election commission chiefs were fired during the poll after “extra ballots were discovered” at polling stations, said Ella Pamfilova, head of the central electoral commission.
Chechen women in Chechen national costumes leave a voting booth at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Grozny, Russia, Sunday
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during parliamentary elections at the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania
Medical workers cast a vote at a hospital during parliamentary elections in Russia’s Voronezh on Sunday
The regions were Bryansk, Kemerovo and the Republic of Adygea, she said.
“At this point, eight cases of ballot stuffing have been confirmed,” she said.
But the moves were seen as a symbolic initiative that was unlikely to convince the opposition that the poll was fair.
In recent months, key Putin enemies have been banned or imprisoned, and their parties, such as anti-correction campaigner Alexei Navalny, are now imprisoned.
Some have been labeled ‘extremist’ or ‘foreign agents’.
Despite this, Navalny repeatedly posted messages during the election calling for tactical voting against pro-Putin candidates.
The popular Telegram messenger had removed Navalny’s “Smart Voting” bot, while the opposition claimed Western web giants had been intimidated by the Kremlin into removing Google documents and YouTube videos listing recommended candidates.
Still, several opposition parties expected the Kremlin to regularly win something back on key points.
Putin has remained in self-isolation for the three days of polls following a reported Covid-19 outbreak in his entourage.
Turnout reached 40.49 percent today by 2:50 p.m., the last day of the vote, officials said.
The impact of online voting – more widely available than in previous elections – was not clear.
An opposition activist reported: ‘Total [ballot] stuffing continues in St. Petersburg.
‘Criminals are not ashamed of anything and shove packages (votes) right under the observers’ camera.
“They know very well that they will not be punished, but will be promoted.”
Previously, huge rows of ‘state officials’, including soldiers, were seen at polling stations across the country amid claims they had been instructed to vote in specific locations to influence the outcome.
In a week when Russia has seen non-stop war games close to its western borders, it seemed like its last military exercise: Operation Get Out The Vote.
In St. Petersburg, a woman was arrested after carrying a bag filled with more than 100 ballot papers to a polling station.