Russian authorities launch dozens of investigations against opposition candidates ahead of September elections
With regional elections fast approaching, Russian authorities have opened nine criminal cases and 51 misdemeanor investigations against independent candidates and perceived rivals, the Net Freedoms Project reported on Monday, August 15.
Net Freedoms counted 85 cases of election-related persecution in total. This includes 53 criminal and administrative proceedings initiated in Moscow, where municipal elections are set to take place on Russia’s “single voting day,” September 11.
At least 64 people have been removed from the ballot or denied candidate registration in the upcoming elections, including 35 sitting deputies in 12 Russian regions. At least 47 people have been stripped of the right to stand for election.
According to Net Freedoms, a “universal way” for the authorities to “neutralize a candidate” is to accuse them of ties to jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Or to press misdemeanor charges for publicly displaying prohibited symbols, such as the logo of Team Navalny’s Smart Vote initiative. At least nine people have been removed from the ballot or denied candidate registration due to past involvement in Navalny’s political and anti-corruption initiatives, which Russia outlawed in 2021.
Following Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, most of the country’s opposition leaders fled abroad. The few who remained in Russia have been jailed. In mid-July, opposition politician Ilya Yashin was remanded in custody on charges of spreading “fake news” about the Russian military. If convicted, he could face up to15 years in prison.