Students in St. Petersburg reportedly offered cash to stuff ballots in upcoming legislative elections

Students at St. Petersburg State University were offered cash in exchange for taking part in rigging the upcoming elections to the city’s Legislative Assembly, reports the student magazine Doxa.

According to the student journalists, a political science student at St. Petersburg State named Vladislav Dubrovsky sent personal messages and messages in group chats asking students to pose as “election observers” from September 17 to 19, and stuff ballots for candidates from the ruling United Russia party.

“You and other Russian citizens will be driven around to polling stations (12 per day), where you must vote for certain candidates,” Dubrovsky wrote, as quoted by Doxa. The student journalists also received screenshots of messages with similar offers. 

A Doxa journalist contacted Dubrovsky, saying that he wanted to work at the polls. Dubrovsky gave him the contact information for a man named Vladimir Kukel (he didn’t offer any details about his identity). In conversation with the journalist, Kukel openly stated that he would need “to falsify the elections a little bit” and promised 15,000 rubles ($205) for three days’ work. 

Kukel explained that on the voting days, the student would need to stuff ballots for a particular candidate from United Russia: the head of St. Petersburg’s policy committee, Alexander Rzhanenkov. He is running for the legislative seat representing single-mandate constituency No. 2 — the same district where Yabloko party candidate Boris Vishnevsky is already competing against two “doppelgangers.”

The students who informed Doxa about the offer to stuff ballots also submitted a complaint about Vladislav Dubrovsky to the university’s ethics commission, demanding an “ethical assessment” of his actions.

Alexander Rzhanenkov and Boris Vishnevsky have yet to comment on these reports.

In July, reports emerged that opposition politician Boris Vishnevsky had been nominated in the St. Petersburg elections, alongside two other candidates who had changed their first and last names to match his. One of the candidates was previously named Viktor Bykov, the other — Alexey Shmelev. Both of the “doppelgangers” also submitted photos to election officials for their campaign posters, in which they bear a striking resemblance to Yabolko’s Boris Vishnevsky. 

Spoiled elections The BBC dissects the dirty tactics used to demoralize voters on both wings of Russia’s ‘systemic’ oppositionThe doppelgangers spoiling one St. Petersburg lawmaker’s campaign are here to stay

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