Watchdog group Golos accuses Putin of fresh election violations

MALMO, Sweden — Vladimir Putin has already broken a string of election laws in the run-up to Russia’s Presidential election on March 4, Golos, the country’s only independent elections watchdog, has concluded in its first report on the election.

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“Active steps are being taken to obstruct the activities of both the opposition and nongovernmental organizations," the group said in the 16-page report, which was published on Monday. 

The report noted that opposition organizations have been evicted from their offices, seen their phone calls and emails bugged, and faced other forms of intimidation. 

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It said Putin had illegally used his position as Russia’s Prime Minister to promote his bid, campaigning through the All-Russia People's Front movement, which is linked to his government offices. 

Others speculate that he also illegally launched his campaign weeks before the official start of the election, outlining his platform in articles in three leading newspapers. 

By law, candidates cannot start campaigning in the mass media until 4 February. 

Nonetheless, Golos official Alexander Kynev noted a marked improvement on last year’s elections for the state parliament, where flagrant abuses led to widespread street protests. 

"We have the impression that lessons have been learned from last fall,” he said.

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