Detained Anti-corruption Foundation and Newcaster.TV staff, 2017. Photo by Ruslan Leviev

2021 Results. Laws of the year

This is a translated overview by Roskomsvoboda. Original text may be found here.


The passing year built on legislative trends of the previous one and even brought about many innovations in censorship, limitations of online activities, and infringements on privacy. Such provisions include multiple prohibitions related to the Great Patriotic War, the 'law against Anti-Corruption Foundation', and infamous QR codes.

In 2021, the government displayed an outstanding will to triumph over the freedom of expression and web comments, which affected the history of the country as well as the activities of opposition politicians and organizations. The year saw numerous examples of applying the previously passed laws banning censorship circumvention and calls for joining unauthorized protests. While courts and security bodies were busy carrying out the existing restrictive norms, legislators worked on developing and passing new ones.

Due to the large number of new amendments that will surely influence RuNet (Russian segment of the Internet – REM), in some cases, we decided to group some laws into topics around a certain author or trend.


Ten years for 'incitement to drugs'

Lawmakers passed quite a severe law in February. The State Duma added an article to the Criminal Code of Russia on up to 10 years imprisonment for incitement to use drugs 'with a use of ICT, including the internet'. Interestingly, the State Duma Commission on Meddling of Foreign States in Russia's Domestic Affairs developed the bill after discovering a 'Western trace' in articles allegedly instilling an idea that it was harmless to use such substances for the young generation and even pregnant women. As is customary, the new phrasing ended up being vague and, if need be, applicable to any mentioning of drugs, including in the framework of a mere discussion.

The toughening of anti-drug legislation was established back in 2019, with an active contribution from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The practical application of the existing legal provisions includes blocking articles quoting well-known musicians about drugs and prosecution of rappers for songs; numerous fines against independent media that allowed discussions on forbidden substances in their publications; and the prohibition of encyclopedia articles on this topic. The authorities see 'drug propaganda' in all this, and it is virtually impossible for the owners of publications to prove in court that there is nothing illegal in their materials. It is unlikely that the new law will become an exception to the established law enforcement rules.


Speculation on the Great Patriotic War

The authorities have been devoting special attention to the Great Patriotic War (World War II) and to the historical memory of the heroic pages of our country's past for quite some time; however, 2021 was probably one of the most eventful years in terms of changing Russian legislation to suit this tone.

In March-April, a package of laws was adopted which, inter alia, introduced criminal liability of up to five years imprisonment for the public dissemination of knowingly false information about World War II veterans. Such actions are now recognized as a form of Nazi rehabilitation. Administrative liability for public dissemination of information expressing clear disrespect for society on the Days of Military Glory and commemorative dates in Russia related to the defence of the Fatherland is strengthened. In addition, administrative liability is introduced for legal entities for the public dissemination of information denying facts established by the Nuremberg Tribunal.

The adopted package of laws was informally called the 'law against Navalny' because its drafting began after an opposition politician's tweet regarding a video promoting constitutional amendments featuring a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Ignat Artemenko.

In addition, the authorities have also banned the publication of images of Nazi criminals. Such materials are now considered extremist unless they do not advocate or justify Nazism or if they create a negative attitude towards that ideology. Bookstores were the first to be affected, as they were ordered to remove books with such images. The decision to adopt these amendments may have been prompted by the case of the prosecution of citizens who posted photographs of Nazi criminals on the website of the Immortal Regiment movement.

A law has been passed that actually bans discussion of not the most pleasant facts from the history of the USSR. The list of facts 'denying the decisive role of the Soviet people in the defeat of Nazi Germany and the humanitarian mission of the USSR in the liberation of Europe' includes the identification of the goals and actions of the Soviet leadership with the actions and goals of Nazi Germany. The new measure would involve administrative fines and arrests; the relevant bill has already been submitted to the State Duma but has not yet been adopted.

All of the above amendments can hardly be called aimed at protecting historical memory as well as veterans. They constitute just new tools for censorship and repressions to squeeze historical research and discussion out of the public sphere, legalize speculative techniques in political propaganda, and other purposes that are not the most acceptable to modern society.


The taboo on investigative journalism about security forces

Criminal liability has been introduced for the publication of data of law enforcement or supervisory officials. This can now lead to heavy fines and even to actual imprisonment for up to two years. A key innovation of the law is the possibility of a criminal liability irrespective of the motivation. Previously, such responsibility was imposed if the aim of the disclosure was to obstruct official activities. Media and public activists believe that the new amendments are aimed at banning investigative reporting on corruption and abuses in the security services. The law is a kind of an upgrade of last December's law on a 'right to LSDU3' (a right to conceal data about the property of public officials, as was done to personal data of Artyom Chaika, a character of Navalny's investigation about allegedly corrupted officials, whose name in official sources was replaced with a special coding 'LSDU3' – REM).

The penalty for publishing the law enforcement officers' data will be up to two years of imprisonment. The law also provides for a fine of 200,000 roubles (approx., 2,300 Euro – REM) or up to 18 months' wages of the convicted person. Other possible punishments include compulsory labor for up to four years, compulsory labor for 480 hours, or detention for up to four months.

As the authors of the initiative pointed out, the disclosure of the personal data of law enforcers is now widespread on the Internet. This is done 'for the purpose of revenge, gain, or PR.' Special responsibility would reduce the number of such unlawful actions.

Bellingcat and The Insider journalists have previously published several investigations based on data of FSB (Federal Security Bureau – REM) officers. According to them, the security forces were involved in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, among others. Many human rights activists and journalists suggest that these investigations may have led to the drafting and adoption of this law.


'Piskaryov's laws'

Vasily Piskaryov, a United Russia MP, was one of the most active in 'investigating the foreign influence' on political processes in Russia in the outgoing year. At his suggestion, the so-called 'laws against the Anti-Corruption-Foundation' were passed:

  • The first one prohibits citizens affiliated with extremist organizations from running in elections, with a potential to establish the involvement 'retrospectively', i.e., in contradiction with the country's Constitution;
  • The second one provides for up to five years in prison for donating to an 'undesirable organization', as well as criminal charges for any association with such a group.

As early as when the draft laws were introduced in the State Duma by Vasily Piskaryov and a group of MPs, they provoked a mixed reaction on the Internet. Many saw them as an indication of authorities' desire to remove from the legal field the organizations whose activities do not fit into the 'framework of what is allowed', and to marginalize and intimidate all sympathizers of such organizations.


Khinshtein's 'matryoshkas'

Another active participant in the development and adoption of censorship laws was the Head of the State Duma's Information Committee, Alexander Khinshtein of the United Russia Party. This year, he was responsible for the tendency of introducing completely unexpected amendments to draft laws for the second reading; there were so many of them that experts have not always had time to react to the emergence of new norms in Russian legislation. At times, many of the novelties were unexpected, even for the initial authors of the bills. In this process, Khinshtein was often aided by his faction colleague, deputy Sergei Boyarsky.

One of the first bills to be passed this year was the law on fines for violating the law 'On Sovereign Runet,' which was suddenly amended for the second reading to include the responsibility of information resources (especially foreign ones) for 'censoring the Russian media'. By censorship, the Russian authorities mean that platforms moderate content posted by pro-government news companies that violate the rules of the respective community.

The new law forces telecom operators and traffic exchange point owners to comply with the 'Sovereign RuNet law', while foreign service providers are expected to tolerate violations of their rules by Russian media outlets. Both norms impose fines on violators, which can be as high as six digits.


The law on forcing foreign IT companies to open representative offices in Russia, 'copied from Turks' (as some experts put it), is aimed at service providers with a daily audience of at least half a million people in Russia. The requirements will affect, among others, hosting providers, messengers, advertising system operators, and 'organizers of information distribution' on the Internet. At the same time, services subject to this regulation will be required to install 'one of the programs offered' by Roskomnadzor to determine the number of users of information resources from Russia.

The Roskomnadzor will maintain a special register, which will contain information on the compliance of resource owners with the introduced requirements and sanctions applied to them in connection with violations, such as a ban on their advertising and Russian advertisers placing their own advertising on the offending resources, and a ban on money transfers. The law provides for a number of ‘enforcement measures’ to force the owners of foreign Internet resources to comply with its norms, the extreme measure being total blocking in Russia.

Khinshtein calls it a 'law on grounding,' but in essence, it is a law 'on hostage companies,' which will be obliged to send or hire their own representatives in Russia, on whom the authorities will retaliate for violations found.

Khinshtein's efforts resulted in a ban on the use of unverified online platforms and digital resources in schools. As noted by Oleg Smolin, a Communist MP, the bill had changed beyond recognition by the second reading. While at first, it dealt with additional funding for nutrition and life-long learning, it then included a series of ideas on distance learning technologies, which had nothing to do with the law passed in the first reading. At first, the Federation Council rejected the law because of several mistakes in the text, after which the State Duma 're-adopted' it.

A law on biometric identification and the expansion of extrajudicial blocking has been passed, and here again, the State Duma, thanks to the efforts of Khinshtein, has mixed hardly interrelated amendments into one document. While one part of the document proposes to ban links with forged documents, false ‘bomb reports’, and justification of extremist and terrorist activities, the other one says that Russians should put their biometric data into a single biometric system and have it processed by state agencies.

Experts see the first part of the law as a desire to force Russians to submit their biometric data exclusively to the state, thus establishing a monopoly on the market. The second part only legitimizes what is happening at the moment, as the Prosecutor General's Office is already blocking internet services without court decisions for false bomb reports that come from them, and the Russian authorities are often unwilling to cooperate with the resource owners in a legal way.

Stanislav Seleznyov, a senior partner of the Network Freedoms project, noted that:

'By the third reading, the bill turned into an interesting matryoshka doll because, in addition to the provisions on the justification of extremism, it also included provisions on biometrics, i.e., for some reason, they decided to sneak in a biometric identification system with this document. It defies the logic of legal technique. One law will regulate two completely different areas: Internet censorship on the one hand and surveillance with biometrics on the other.'


QR drama

The Cabinet of Ministers sent two bills to the State Duma in mid-November to introduce QR codes as an anti-coronavirus measure in transport, shops, restaurants, and public places. After a wave of protests swept the country, MPs decided to postpone the adoption of the amendments, sending the bills to the Federation Council and also to regional parliaments. Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin enabled commenting on his Telegram to find out what his subscribers thought of the new measure, and it turned out that an overwhelming majority was against the introduction of such restrictions.

The authorities have now decided to take a much more cautious approach to the adoption of the new amendments than, for example, in relation to the other laws cited above.

Currently, only the bill on QR codes in public places has been adopted in the first reading. Volodin promised that before the second reading, it would be re-sent for discussion to the regions, the Federation Council, and the government.

Consideration of the amendment on the introduction of electronic passes for transport has been postponed.

According to the proposed amendments, the Ministry of Health will be empowered to determine the validity period of QR-codes separately for the vaccinated and for those who have recovered from the disease. A transitional period will be in force until 1 February 2022 in order to provide time to vaccinate and get a QR code. Before that date, it will also be possible to obtain a negative PCR test; after 1 February, only persons with medical clearance will be able to do so. Minors will not be affected by the coronavirus QR code measure. The rules of the new laws will be in force until 1 June 2022.


'Fan’s Passport'

In mid-December, a law was passed to introduce Fan ID for attending official sporting events. It will enter into force on 1 June 2022.

According to the law, the government will have to define a list of 'official sporting events where the identification and authentication of spectators, participants in an official sporting event, and other persons involved in holding such events is mandatory.' From now on, the sale of tickets for sports events will be carried out only 'in the presence of a valid personal identification card and in compliance with the established procedure of identification and authentication.'

The introduction of the 'fan’s passport' was another norm that was met with a largely negative reaction, especially from football fans. Many considered it redundant, discriminatory, and not fulfilling its main function of ensuring the safety of spectators.

Many major fan associations have already officially announced their refusal to obtain Fan ID, and sports experts predict a drop in attendance at stadiums.


'The trend towards the sovereignization of Runet and complete de-anonymization of users presses on,' Sarkis Darbinyan, head of Roskomsvoboda's legal practice, has previously described the authorities' legislative initiatives. - The space for freedom of information continues to shrink. Against this background, the "Internet for the poor" initiative, promoted for two years now, which in fact is of no use to anyone but the authorities, looks rather silly. In January, several odious laws will come into force, which will continue the policy of balkanization of the Russian segment of the Internet and introduce new requirements for international technology companies. This will further worsen the investment climate for the IT sector.'

Roskomsvoboda lawyer Anna Karnaukhova, for her part, draws attention to the intrusion into the privacy of Russians, whose data the state increasingly wants to turn into its own property. ‘The unified biometric system is becoming a state information system,’ she says. ‘The UBS was created in 2018 at the initiative of the Ministry of Communications and the Central Bank. Initially, its purpose was to provide financial services remotely through face and voice. Now, the digital platform for identifying citizens through biometrics will get increased government oversight. During the existence of the system, 164,000 records have been collected, and the authorities expect to increase this number to 70 million. People are in no hurry to voluntarily submit biometrics, even for convenience; this is why I think the status of the UBS is being changed to state-run, with de facto compulsory biometric submission down the road – of course, for some very important and good purpose.’

In an interview with Novaya Gazeta, Artyom Kozlyuk, Head of Roskomsvoboda, spoke out about the law on extrajudicial blocking of websites that advocate extremism: ‘This law legitimises the already established practice of blocking certain political or near-political content, which already happens en masse. It is already possible to block absolutely any Internet resource, regardless of its size, traffic, profile, domain zone, and jurisdiction, on a huge number of grounds. This is yet another negative legal act that does not serve the interests of society, but replaces the real fight against crime with fictitious actions or the fight against political opponents of the authorities.’

Kozlyuk is also skeptical about the Fan ID law. ‘There are big questions about the legal component of such a law. It turns out that some kind of additional passports will be introduced for entry to certain events. The next step may be a law that at the entrance to a shop we have to have some kind of a customer ID, for example. It could be taken to the point of absurdity; it is already happening here and now. I believe that such a law is wrong and restricts the rights and freedoms of our citizens. <...> It is on a par with other laws that limit our digital rights as well as privacy rights,’ he said on Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos'. By Photobank Moscow-Live

From election observers to ‘foreign agents’: how voters' rights defenders of the ‘Golos’ Movement are persecuted

Since September 2021, twenty regional coordinators and experts of the 'Golos' Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights were added to the registry of foreign media outlets performing the functions of 'a foreign agent'. Here's an overview of how election observers are being targeted and persecuted.

Read more …

Plenary chamber of the Council of Europe's Palace of Europe. Image by PPCOE

Questionable credentials of the Russian Delegation to PACE after flawed Duma elections 2021

Independent election experts have described the 2021 Duma elections as the dirtiest elections in Russia's history. The lack of public control, the deprivation of millions of Russian citizens of their passive suffrage, massive manipulation of results through e-voting, holding of elections on the annexed territory of Crimea, and the inclusion of voters from the occupied Eastern Ukraine put the legitimacy of the current State Duma and the new PACE delegation under question.

Read more …

Detained Anti-corruption Foundation and Newcaster.TV staff, 2017. Photo by Ruslan Leviev

2021 Results. Laws of the year

The passing year built on legislative trends of the previous one and even brought about many innovations in censorship, limitations of online activities, and infringements on privacy. Such provisions include multiple prohibitions related to the Great Patriotic War, the ‘law against Anti-Corruption Foundation’, and infamous QR codes.

Read more …

Policemen block a street in Moscow. Photo by Sergey Korneev

On the liquidation of International Memorial

On 28 December 2021 Russia's Supreme Court ruled to close International Memorial. The lawsuit, filed by the Prosecutor General's Office, referred to a missing 'foreign agent' designation on some of the materials produced by International Memorial. This is only a formal pretext, though, and the court hearings showed that these allegations were groundless.

Read more …

Rally for the right to vote in Moscow (2019-07-27). Photo by Ilya Varlamov

Things Will Not Be The Same: OVD-Info on the Liquidation of Memorial NGOs

OVD-Info's statement on the liquidation of its partner - the 'Memorial' Human Rights Center.

Read more …

Navalny's Election Headquarters. Image by Dmitry Rozhkov

Departed Russia of the Future

Hardly any of Navalny's key allies currently remain in Russia. The Insider interviewed former coordinators of Navalny's regional headquarters to find out why and how they left, what they do in exile, and under what conditions they are willing to return to Russia.

Read more …

Basmanny District Court. Image by Photobank Moscow Live

Russia is liquidating the League of Voters

On December 8, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow ruled to liquidate the 'League of Voters' Foundation. Its leaders believe that the ruling is politically motivated and is aimed to destroy the organization which is a partner in the 'Golos' Movement and supports the training of independent citizen election observers in Russia.

Read more …

State Duma. Image by Moscow Live/flickr

Created and (or) distributed: Discriminatory aspects of the application of legislation on ‘foreign agents’

OVD-Info reviews the newly expanded 'foreign agents' law to identify and analyze discriminatory aspects of the legislation and its application.

Read more …

2019 Moscow City Duma election. Image by Krassotkin

Undercover: How observers are trained at the Civic Chamber of Moscow

A member of the 'Golos' Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights recounts their experience observing elections on behalf of the Moscow Civic Chamber. According to the activist, the institution appears to purposefully instruct observers in such a manner as to limit their ability to make a real difference at the polling stations.

Read more …

Russian coach at Helsinki Central Railway Station. Image by Antti Leppänen

The Party's gold. How United Russia misappropriates Russian Railways’ money under the guise of "donations"

Last year United Russia collected a record amount of donations from legal entities, 4.8 billion rubles. The Insider learned that the party received about half of this money from major Russian Railways contractors, some of which seemingly could not afford to make such "donations". Despite claiming to channel funds towards charity and fighting the Coronavirus, the party spent it on the maintenance of its apparatus and election campaigning.

Read more …

Russian flag with gloomy clouds. Image by Pxhere

‘Golos‘ Movement supports Memorial and calls for an emergency civic meeting

Russian authorities have moved to liquidate the International Historical Educational Charitable and Human Rights Society 'Memorial' and its affiliate, Russian Human Rights Centre 'Memorial'. The 'Golos' Movement calls for solidarity with Russia's longest-standing human rights organization.

Read more …

Moscow, the Kremlin and Red Square. Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg

Elections, totalitarian style

The political bloc of the Moscow Mayor's office has begun campaign preparations for the 2022 municipal elections. Meduza breaks down the key points in the preliminary campaign plan here.

Read more …

Man working on a computer in the dark. Image by Comstock

Golos' statement on the online voting in Russian elections

Following the observation of the September 19, 2021 elections, the 'Golos' Movement stated that 'the current electronic voting system does not meet the high standards of public accountability of electoral procedures', which the Russian Constitution and legislation establish as mandatory. Despite this position, some promoters of online voting in Russia have been claiming otherwise.

Read more …

Ufa, Bashkortostan. Photo by Sasha India/flickr

Election Day-2021 in Bashkiria: 'Put in the target number I set'

Preliminarily evaluating the elections to the Ufa City Council and the State Duma in the Republic of Bashkortostan, the 'Golos' Movement regretfully cannot recognize the elections as truly fair, i.e., fully compliant with the Constitution, the laws of the Russian Federation, the laws of the Republic of Bashkortostan, and international election standards.

Read more …

Krasnodar 2021 election results, by S. Shpilkin

Statistical analysis of elections in Kuban

According to the analysis by Sergey Shpilkin, 889 thousand out of 1.7 million votes for United Russia in Kuban do not fall into the normal mathematical distribution. This can result from direct falsifications, pressurized voting of the employees of state-owned enterprises, public institutions, and local authorities, and the use of an administrative resource.

Read more …

CPRF rally in Moscow, 2011. Photo by Wikimedia

When they came for the Communist Party: Arrests, sieges, and pressure on supporters after the State Duma elections

The Communist Party received 19% of the votes in the last elections to the State Duma. After that, the party's supporters faced unprecedented pressure for the 'systemic opposition.' They were detained, fined, sentenced to administrative arrests, and blocked in the party premises. CPRF continues to challenge the election results and demand an investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Read more …

Russian State Duma raises retirement age. Image by Wikimedia

Hot potato: Nearly a fifth of Russia’s new State Duma deputies owe their jobs to secondhand mandates

On Tuesday, October 12, the new convocation of Russia's State Duma convened for its first session. Roughly a fifth of all lawmakers — 88 of 450 deputies — received their seats from higher-ranked candidates on party lists, winning the jobs because others didn't want them.

Read more …

Election observation headquarters. Photo by Golos

'Golos' Movement: It won't be easy, but we can do it

Statement of the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' on inclusion of its members into the Foreign Agents Registry, October 5, 2021.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Screenshot Oct. 8, 2021

Map of violations: three record-setting days

In total, from the beginning of voting dated September 17, 'Map of Violations' by the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' published 4592 reports. The Map is a project that collects information about possible electoral violations using the principle of crowdsourcing – observers, voters, members of commissions may report alleged violations witnessed during the electoral campaigning or voting using a submission form on the website or a telephone hotline.

Read more …

REV-2021. By Nackepelo

First Findings of the Moscow's Remote Electronic Voting Technical Audit

The "remote electronic voting" or online voting held in the Russian capital during the September 17-19, 2021 elections was scandalous, to say the least. In response, two groups have been formed by the Russian public to scrutinize the results.

Read more …

Regions by level of electoral fraud

Levels of electoral fraud in the Russian regions

In order to help assess the outcomes of 2021 State Duma elections, the 'Movement in the Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' provides a reference analysis, dividing Russian regions into six groups based on the level of falsifications in the federal elections of 2016 and 2018 and in the all-Russian voting in 2020.

Read more …


Remote electronic voting: results cannot be verified

A scandal in the capital: lengthy vote tabulation, a radical overhaul of the whole election results, and shut down of the observers' node.

Read more …

"We don't trust Churov - we trust Gauss". Image by Golos

2021 State Duma elections: first statistical estimates

Sergey Shpilkin analyzes data from 96,840 polling stations that cover 107.9 million registered voters out of 109.2 million on the list. His analysis demonstrates that at the polling stations where the results appear genuine, the turnout is on average 38% and the United Russia's share of votes is between 31% and 33%.

Read more …

Voting. By Photobank Moscow-Live

Preliminary findings of observation of the September 19, 2021, State Duma elections

This is a preliminary statement on findings of observation on the main voting day, September 19, 2021, by the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos".' Golos ran long-term and short-term observation of all stages of the campaign. In the course of the elections, the united call center's hotline received 5,943 calls. The 'Map of Violations' received 4,973 reports of alleged violations by noon 20 September, Moscow time, including 3,787 on the voting days.

Read more …

Voting. Image by Photobank Moscow-Live. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Voting. Image by Photobank Moscow-Live

Voting Day II: A Brief Overview

This is a brief overview of election monitoring findings on the Second Voting Day, September 18, 2021 by citizen observers of the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"'.

Read more …

Duma elections. by George Shuklin, CC BY-SA 2.5

Voting Day 1: A Brief Overview

This is a brief overview of election monitoring findings on the First Voting Day by citizen observers of the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"'.

Read more …

Campaigning in Samara. 2011 elections. Image by Golos

The election campaign and administrative mobilization of voters in September 19, 2021 elections

The September 19, 2021 elections are marked by growing pressure on media and individual journalists, attempts at blocking information about "Smart Voting", and massive coercion of voters to vote and register for e-voting and mobile voting. In parallel, social media has been growing in importance for years as a space of more freedom and an alternative information channel. Here are the main findings of the report that focuses on the impact of these two antipodal trends.

Read more …

Victor Vasnetsov. Three bogatyrs (Medieval Russian Heroes). Photo by flickr user paukrus

'The three heroes': more than a third of social media mentions are related to United Russia, CPRF, and the New People party

This report covers the monitoring of social networks from the 10th to the 11th week of the election campaign (August 23 to September 5) to the Russian State Duma, scheduled for September 19, 2021.

Read more …

Russian passports. Image by MediaPhoto.Org, CC-BY-3.0

Residents of Russia-Occupied East Ukrainian Territories Encouraged to Vote in 2021 State Duma Elections

One aspect of the 2021 Russian parliamentary elections that differentiates them from previous federal elections is the potential participation in the voting process of dozens of thousands of people located on the Ukrainian territories outside of control of the Ukrainian authorities and not recognized as part of Russia by the Russian Federation itself.

Read more …

Map of Violations Update Sept 6-12. Image by REM

Arrests, bribery, threats

This is the seventh overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' between September 6 and September 12. Since the beginning of the election campaign, 945 messages from 72 regions have been published on the Map.

Read more …

Map of Violations Update - Aug 30-Sept 1

Arrests, arson, and being fired for refusing to register for remote voting

This is the sixth overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 30 and September 5. In total, from August 30 to September 1, 125 messages have been received by the Map.

Read more …

Social media. Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Two universes: unlike on television, in social networks, United Russia and the Communist Party are almost head-to-head

This report covers the monitoring of social networks from the 5th to the 9th week (July 20 - August 22) of the election campaign to the Russian State Duma, scheduled for September 19, 2021.

Read more …

Vladimir Putin on XVII congress of United Russia in 2017. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Vladimir Putin plans to win Russia’s parliamentary election no matter how unpopular his party is

Despite its dismal approval rating, Russian President Vladimir Putin's ruling political party can – and likely will – win a constitutional majority in September's legislative elections.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Sept. 1, 2021

‘Imaginary’ campaign boards and an assignment to vote in prisons

This is the fifth overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 23 and August 29. In total, 100 messages have been received by the Map during this period.

Read more …

2019 Rally for right to vote in Moscow. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Consequences of the ‘law against the Anti-Corruption Foundation’: opposition candidates are denied participation in elections

The Moscow City Court has designated the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Alexey Navalny's Headquarters and the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation as 'extremist' organizations. Inter alia, it implies the prohibition to participate in elections.

The authorities have proceeded to banning pro-opposition candidates from running to the State Duma and other legislative bodies on a pretext of involvement in Navalny's projects.

Read more …

State Duma elections in Sochi, Dec 4. 2011. Image by flickr/Andrew Amerikov

The outcomes of nomination and registration of candidates to the State Duma of the Russian Federation

The elections of the State Duma of Russia of the eighth convocation are marked by considerable tightening of rules for candidate nomination and registration. In fact, the rules are much worse than in 2016, when the current membership of the parliament was elected. Run on the background of harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and information and freedom of assembly and association, the elections are accompanied by a political crackdown against the most active pro-opposition citizens.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 20, 2021

Pressure on voters and state control over social media accounts

This is the fourth overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 16 and August 22. In total, 98 messages have been received by the Map in that period.

Read more …

Behind a camera. Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

Uneven access and unbalanced coverage: media monitoring findings after eight weeks of the campaign

Equality of rights of candidates in media coverage of their election campaign is one of the most important conditions for holding free and democratic elections. For a significant part of Russians, television remains to be one of the main sources of information. During the election campaign, the influence of television in shaping the attitude of the majority of voters towards elections and candidates is often decisive. Here is a summary of monitoring findings for the five main federal television channels during the first eight weeks of the campaign.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 20, 2021

PCR tests for voters and candidate flights at public expense

This is the third overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 9 and August 15. Since the beginning of the election campaign, 452 messages from 62 regions have been published on the Map.


Read more …

Screenshot of Golos' statement cover image

Statement on the continuation of the work of the Movement 'Golos' after being included in the 'Foreign agents' registry

On August 18, the Ministry of Justice of Russia included the Movement 'Golos' as the first unregistered organisation into the registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent. Here is the translation of their statement.

Read more …

Russian regional elections in 2018. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Political and Legal Peculiarities of September 2021 Regional and Local Elections

According to the CEC data as of 9 July 2021, 4,370 elections and referenda are scheduled for 19 September 2021, including elections to the State Duma, nine gubernatorial elections (new heads will be elected in three more regions), 39 elections to regional parliaments, and 11 elections of representative bodies of regional centres. Here's an overview of legal regulations and peculiarities of these races.

Read more …

A screenshot of a live broadcast of the voting process. Image by 'Golos' Movement.

Open appeal of the 'Golos' Movement to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

In 2021, the Russian Central Election Commission decided to scrap open video broadcasts from the polling stations – a feature of Russian elections since 2012. The Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' has appealed to the President to help overturn this decision.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 12, 2021

The administrative resource is gaining momentum, and independent candidates continue to face registration denials

This is the second overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 2 and August 8.

Read more …

The Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Duncan represented the UK at the 23rd OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg, Germany, 8-9 December 2016.
OSCE Flags. Photo by Alex Hammond / FCO. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Russian elections again without OSCE observation

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly will not deploy international election observation missions to the 2021 State Duma elections due to major limitations imposed on the institutions. Announcing the decision, ODIHR Director noted that the ability "to independently determine the number of observers necessary for us to observe effectively and credibly is essential to all international observation."

Read more …

Reporter's notebook. Photo by 2008 Roger H. Goun. CC BY 3.0

CEC restricts journalists' access to the electoral process

On 28 July 2021, the Central Election Commission adopted a new media accreditation procedure that restricts media access to observe and report on the electoral process. The new rules violate the freedom of media editorial policy and may significantly reduce the transparency of the election process.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 5, 2021

‘Extremists’, ‘foreign agents’, and the abuse of administrative resource

This is the first overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between June 22 and August 1.

Read more …

Ballot stuffing, elections March 18, 2018, Lyubertsy. Image - Golos

No public video broadcast from the polling stations during the September elections

Less than two months before the elections, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) decided to scrap open video broadcasts from the polling stations, which have been the feature of Russian elections since 2012.

Read more …

Ballot box for voting on Constitutional Amendments 2020. Photo - Wikimedia Commons

19 times: How the election law was changed before the 2021 State Duma elections

Since the last State Duma elections in 2016, lawmakers have introduced 19 amendments to the election law. In the year leading up to the State Duma elections in September 2021 alone, seven significant legislative amendments have been introduced, six of them in less than four months before the start of the campaign.

Read more …

TV reporter, Bryansk. Photo - pxfuel

No tolerance for dissent: the state of Russian media ahead of 2021 elections

After almost a decade of crackdowns on big players, the landscape of critical journalism in Russia is dominated by local or smaller niche projects. But if the 2020-2021 trend of relentless attacks on media, journalists, and bloggers continues, many of these small projects are not likely to survive into the autumn. The regime makes it pretty clear that it no longer intends to tolerate any dissent.

Read more …

"1941- ssshhh!" - Image by James Vaughan / flickr

What are "foreign agents" and "undesirable organizations"?

The laws on "foreign agent" and "undesirable organizations" continue to hamper the work of affected organizations, stigmatize and damage their reputation, and isolate the civil society from international cooperation and support. What are these provisions and how are they being applied?

Read more …

Vladimir Putin Speech at State Duma plenary session 2020-03-10. Image - Wikimedia Commons

Five years of silence: More than 20 State Duma lawmakers haven't said a word in parliament since they were elected in 2016

The Russian State Duma's seventh convocation is coming to the end of its five-year term. And according to a new report from iStories and, dozens of its deputies haven't said a word in a parliamentary session since they were elected in 2016. Others haven't put forward a single bill. Be that as it may, this hasn't stopped these lawmakers from collecting high salaries and planning to put their names on the ballot for the State Duma election coming up in September.

Read more …

Arrest by the police. Image - Wikimedia Commons

Deprival of passive suffrage – who cannot run in the 2021 Duma Elections and why

According to election observers, recent amendments further limiting citizens' passive suffrage constitute a "fifth wave" of depriving Russians of their right to stand for election since the collapse of the USSR. New restrictions have a particular impact on politically active citizens.

Read more …

Programming, computing and information concept. Image - Peshkova, Getty Images Pro

Online Voting Testing in the Russian Federation: Observers’ Assessment

In May, the Russian Federation has tested a new system of remote electronic voting. The Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos" observed the testing phase, took part in the voting, and shared their conclusions and recommendations in a respective report.

Read more …

"I have the right to choose!" Photo - EPDE.

Conditions for Citizen Election Observation in the Russian Federation Ahead of the 2021 Duma Elections

Opportunities for independent citizen election observation and civil society space in general have been shrinking steadily in Russia over the past decade. Recently, further restrictions have been adopted that limit the ability of citizens to independently monitor electoral processes.

Read more …

May 1st Demonstration of the Communist Party, 2012. Image by _TMY2892/flickr

How Authorities Stripped Russians Of Choice

Over the past 14 years, the authorities have blocked 120,000 candidates from participating in elections of various levels, depriving millions of Russian citizens of the right to choose their representatives.

Read more …

A demonstration in Moscow. Image - by Andrey, Pxhere.

Hundreds of Thousands of Extremists

Russia has finally outlawed Alexey Navalny's political and anti-corruption movement. Here's how the crackdown affects activists, journalists, and ordinary supporters.

Read more …

Plenary meeting of the State Duma. Image - Wikimedia Commons

The Law Prohibiting People Involved in Activities of Extremist Organizations from Participating in Elections Is Adopted

The President of Russia approved the law prohibiting those who are "involved" in the activities of an extremist organization from running in elections.

Read more …

Electoral headquarters of Alexey Navalny. Photo - Wikimedia Commons

Now Extremists. How Alexei Navalny's Supporters May Be Persecuted

On June 9, the Moscow City Court, based on the charges by the Moscow Prosecutor's Office, recognized the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), the Foundation for the Protection of Citizens' Rights, and the headquarters of Alexei Navalny as extremist organizations. Now, many citizens are under a threat of pressure and persecution.

Read more …

Meeting of Central Election Commission Chair Ella Pamfilova with OSCE / ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. Photo - CEC

Implementation of OSCE/ODIHR Recommendations to Russia Following 2003-2018 Federal Elections

Between 2003 and 2018, OSCE/ODIHR published 139 recommendations on how to improve the conduct of elections in Russia. In the run-up to the State Duma elections in 2021, Russia has fully implemented just over 10% of them. Some have been tackled more promptly than others.

Read more …

Man using computers. Photo by: Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Online Elections in Russia: Manipulating Votes in a New Digital Realm

Ahead of the State Duma election on September 19, 2021, Russia just tested its remote electronic voting system. While the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (CEC) is preparing the report about the results of the test, election monitors say Russia's electronic voting system is a black box.

Read more …

Alexei Navalny. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New Legislation Aims To Block Opposition Candidates

The Russian authorities are expected to orchestrate a result in the upcoming State Duma elections that will give United Russia a clear majority of seats. This does not mean, however, that the manipulation of the electoral process by the authorities is complete. In a limited number of competitive districts, true opposition candidates including candidates who are associated with Aleksei Navalny have a real chance of winning if they are allowed to run. In recent weeks, steps have been taken to block these 'undesirable' candidates from participating.

Read more …

Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russian Federation during April 21, 2021, meeting. Photo by: CEC.

The new-old Central Election Commission: an authentic renewal or a superficial touch up?

On March 19, 2021, the new composition of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Russian Federation was revealed. Out of 15 members, eight new people joined the CEC. In particular, the new Commission has been 'reinforced' by bureaucrats from the Presidential Administration, the State Duma, and the Civic Chamber (a consultative civil society institution closely linked to the government).

Read more …