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‘Taking a big risk’ Moscow residents are being offered money to register fake accounts for online voting

Source: TV Rain
Kirill Kukhmar / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Moscow residents are being offered money to register fake accounts on the government platform mos.ru and vote online in support of amending the constitution, reports the television channel Dozhd (“TV Rain”). Would-be participants are being promised 75 rubles for each registration (about $1), and another 50 rubles (about $0.70) for voting through the created account. According to Dozhd, the organizers of the scheme recommend registering a minimum of 20 accounts per day.

These offers first appeared in a chat on WhatsApp, and were brought to the attention of Dozhd’s journalists by an audience member. In the chat, a user going by the pseudonym “Oleg Viktorovich” explained that a separate SIM-card will be provided for each registration. Then, he said, you will have to create an email address for each account and input data, which he promised to provide later. During the voting period participants in the scheme are expected to vote in favor of the constitutional amendments.

A Dozhd correspondent met with “Oleg Viktorovich,” who gave him 25 SIM cards. Earlier, this man had asked anyone interested in the scheme to bring their passports, so he could photograph the address of their official residence (whether or not the Dozhd correspondent provided this information is not specified). During the meeting “Oleg Viktorovich” explained that participants in the scheme will still be paid, even if mos.ru refuses to register the SIM cards and the provided data. They just have to provide screenshots.

When the Dozhd correspondent received the SIM cards, they were wrapped in a signature list for Nikolai Tabashnikov, the chief editor of the television station Moya Planeta, who ran in the 2019 Moscow City Duma elections. Tabashnikov said that he doesn’t know “Oleg Viktorovich” and doesn’t know how he obtained this signature list.

Dozhd later reported that they received a database of personal data from the organizers of the scheme, which was meant to be registered on mos.ru. The database included a passport number and series, social security number (SNILS), residential address, age, full name, and other personal data for each person. 

The database mainly contained the personal information of pensioners registered as residents in northwestern Moscow, who ranged from the age of 60 to over 100 years old. One table contained information on 10 different people whose passports were issued on the same day.

According to the Vice Chairman of the Moscow Civic Chamber, Ekho Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov, the organizers of the scheme are “taking a big risk,” since “any application filed for online voting doesn’t just go to the Moscow [government] but to the federal authorities, including the FSB.”

Online voter registration requires a variety of personal information, including a person’s full name, birth date, and social security number, explained the chief developer of the electronic voting system, Artem Kostyrko. He also noted that those whose passport data in the voter registry match the data in their personal accounts can also apply for online voting.

The Moscow Election Commission told RIA Novosti  that its deputy chairman, Dmitry Reut, had requested that the police verify reports about the creation of fake accounts for online voting ahead of the July 1 plebiscite on constitutional amendments. The Moscow Police later confirmed that they are verifying Dozhd’s reports.

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Summary by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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