Arrest by the police. Image - Wikimedia Commons

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


On June 4, 2021, President Putin signed a law that would deprive those Russian citizens who have been "involved" in any way in the activities of organizations recognized by the Russian authorities as "extremist" of their passive suffrage right. Recent amendments to the law were adopted on May 26 by the State Duma. 1  

The law came into force shortly after Navalny's regional network of headquarters ("Shtaby Navalnogo") was placed on the Russian financial controller Rosfinmonitoring's list of organisations in relation to which there is evidence of involvement in extremist activity or terrorism. 2 It bans leaders of such organisations, who have worked for these organisations within three years before it was declared extremist, from running in elections of all levels for five years after the organisation has been declared extremist. Members and others "involved" in such organisations within the last three years (e.g. those who donated money) will not be able to stand for election for three years.

The law is going to be applied retrospectively, which critics believe is contrary to art. 54 of the Russian Constitution. 3 Moreover, its wording is so ambiguous that it may affect several hundred thousand politically active citizens who may want to run in the upcoming State Duma elections in September 2021. Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Central Election Commission, confirmed recently that she cannot assess how the new law could affect the rights of potential candidates since she "does not yet have a good understanding of the mechanism of what is being accepted". 4

Experts believe that these amendments already constitute a "fifth wave" of depriving Russian citizens of their right to stand for election since the collapse of the USSR. Previous packages of restrictions were introduced in 2006, 2007, 2014, and 2020.5

The new law might lead to an avalanche of court cases (including fabricated ones), the purpose of which would be to prevent prominent politicians from entering the 2021 elections.

An important aspect of this law amendment is its deterrent character. According to this new law, no one will ever be able to foresee legal consequences of his or her support of any organization. Such a disposition is unconstitutional and generates legal uncertainty. Considering the recent recognition of Navalnys' Anti-Corruption Fund as an "extremist" organisation6, it is hard to predict the number of active citizens who may be deprived of their passive voting right. As of May 25, 2021, almost 470 thousand people were registered on the website "Free Navalny" alone.

The authors of the law7 do not hide the fact that it is purely opportunistic and that they are merely trying to pass it before the start of the elections of the State Duma deputies in 2021. To reach their goal, they are willing to violate procedure, abandoning the obligatory 20-day period8 that enables the deputies to familiarize themselves with the draft law and develop their attitude towards it.

Previous restrictions and their implications

One year earlier, on May 13, 2020, the State Duma of Russia hastily adopted amendments, which significantly limited the electoral rights of the citizens. Among others, the new law provided for articles often used for politically motivated persecution, including dissemination of false information, violations of rules to organize a rally, calls for extremism or separatism, and use of violence against state officials. Also, business-related articles and drug-related articles were introduced. Overall, approx. 50 new charges have been introduced.

Experts called these 2020 amendments a "fourth wave" of complementary legislative restrictions on the passive electoral right, in addition to those already provided for in Article 32 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and related to the court's decision to recognize a person's legal incapacity or detention.

The 2020 amendments restrict the passive voting right of Russian citizens who:

  1. have foreign citizenship and/or a residency permit of a foreign country;
  2. were convicted by the court for extremist appeals, inciting discord, propagating exclusiveness, and using Nazi symbols;
  3. have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for committing a serious offence or particularly serious crime and who had an unredeemed/revoked conviction for the specified offences on the day of the election;
  4. were sentenced to an administrative fine for producing and distributing extremist material.

Based on open data and official statistics, experts estimate that the total number of citizens who have been prohibited by the state from running for elections amounts to at least 9 million9, which is about 8% of the total number of voters.

Several thousand political activists are already subject to restrictions, having been persecuted in "politically motivated" cases. Approx. 10 thousand politically active citizens have been charged under an administrative offence for participating in peaceful meetings, which may hinder them from running for elections. This number is expected to significantly increase in the future.

The most recent examples10 of restrictions are the criminal case related to the activity of an "undesirable" organization, initiated on May 29, 2021 and involving the former executive officer of the Open Russia opposition group  Andrey Pivovarov, and the criminal case for "causing property damage", initiated11 on April 28, 2021 against the opposition politician and former State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov. Both of them aimed to run for the State Duma elections and now may lose this right.

Further six well-known politicians have been deprived of the right to run, among them are the ex-coordinator of Navalny's headquarters in the Arkhangelsk region, Andrey Borovikov; Moscow municipal deputy and organizer of the Zemsky Congress Yulia Galyamina; former deputy of the Vologda city council Yevgeny Domozhirov; leader of the movement "For a new socialism" Nikolay Platoshkin; and deputies of regional parliaments – communist Yuri Yukhnevich (Tyumen region) and member of LDPR Anton Mirbadalev (Mari El republic).

This number does not include those who may be deprived of passive suffrage rights under a new draft law (approved on May 26 in the 3rd reading12), prohibiting those who were involved in "extremist" organizations from running for elections. Experts estimate that this new law can affect another several hundreds of thousands of politically active citizens.

New amendments versus legal provisions

Experts underline that in many cases the approved limitations of the electoral rights do not meet the criteria of reasonableness, proportionality, necessity, and justification, which are established by the Constitutional Court of Russia. In many cases, the political right to run for elections is being denied to those citizens who have committed misconduct, the significance of which is assessed by Russian courts as low and the punishment for which is a fine of one to three thousand rubles (11-33 EUR).

The constant expansion of the grounds (exceeding those established by the Constitution of Russia) aimed at depriving citizens of their passive suffrage, along with the haste of measures taken, the absence of any type of justification in terms of necessity and reasonableness, as well as the practice of using new law provisions for repression of political opponents indicate that the real purpose of the amendments is to limit the rights to be elected as much as possible by ruling out those candidates who are in opposition to the current government.

Since the adoption in 1993 of the current Constitution of Russia, which proclaims the principles of republicanism and the rule of law, the relaxation rather than tightening of restrictions on passive electoral rights has happened only once. Namely, in 2013, the lifetime deprivation of the passive electoral right of citizens who were sentenced to imprisonment for committing serious and/or particularly serious crimes was declared unconstitutional. 13 For the rest, there was only a tightening of such restrictions and limitations.

In the mid-2000s, Russian legislators decided to return to the Soviet practice abolished four decades earlier and began to actively expand the list of grounds for deprivation of the right to vote. All this despite the fact that the Constitution of the Russian Federation formally provided for only two grounds for deprivation of the right to vote. These were: recognition of a person's legal incapacity on the basis of a court decision and placement of a person in a closed institution on the basis of a court decision (Art. 32, part 3).

In response to objections arising from the new law's contradiction with the Constitution, in 2007 the Constitutional Court of Russia ruled14 that depriving citizens of their passive electoral right was constitutional in the case of holding a second (foreign) citizenship, as, according to the court, this could threaten the country's sovereignty. In 2013, the court stated15, among other things, that the indicated provision of the Constitution cannot be interpreted as one that excludes the possibility of additional restrictions on passive electoral rights imposed by a federal law.

New amendments versus international standards

International standards for conducting elections do not deny the possibility of deprivation of voting rights. However, such deprivation must meet several conditions: it must be provided for by the law; the principle of proportionality to the offence must be observed; the grounds for deprivation from the right to vote must be more serious than the grounds for deprivation from the right to stand in elections; deprivation of voting rights may derive from mental disability or a criminal conviction for a serious offence. In addition, deprivation from political rights or recognition of a person as mentally disabled is admissible only under a court decision.16

An automatic and undifferentiated deprivation of the suffrage right from a group of people, regardless of the term of punishment, the nature or seriousness of the offence, and personal circumstances, contradicts Art. 3, protocol 1, of the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.17

However, both the justification and the nature of the adoption of the bills of 13 May 2020 and 26 May 2021 indicate that the lawmakers were not motivated by the will to protect citizens' rights and constitutional values. The Russian Constitutional Court admittedly confirmed18 that the restriction of the passive electoral right should be based on the criteria of rationality, proportionality, necessity, justification, and fulfilment of constitutionally relevant objectives. However, these attributes do not have an unambiguous definition and it is extremely difficult to find any comprehensible yet universally recognised criteria for their assessment, both in international and Russian legislation.

The only exception is the concurrence of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation with the disposition of the ECHR, which stated that "deprivation of active electoral rights may be considered proportional to the crime in cases involving conviction under criminal articles providing for a sentence of up to 3 years' imprisonment".19 In 2013, the Constitutional Court also defined its attitude to the possibility of deprivation of the passive electoral right not by a court decision, but automatically and on the basis of legal provisions. The court's decision emphasised that deprivation of the passive electoral right does not apply to persons convicted in moderately serious cases (except for extremist groups), as well as to persons convicted without serving a prison sentence. Apparently, the court believed that such a restriction was only proportionate to serious and particularly serious crimes. Today, such an 'automatic' procedure is extended to cover even minor offences. It also covers certain administrative offences which are not considered to be criminal offences at all.

The impact on the passive suffrage

The deprivation of passive electoral rights in many cases covers a long period after the conviction has been erased or annulled, as it does not cease once the conviction is erased.

For those charged with serious offences, the conviction expires within 8 years, while the ineligibility to vote lasts for a further 10 years from the repeal or expiry of the last conviction. In the case of particularly serious offences, these periods are extended to 10 and 15 years respectively. Thus, a person can be deprived of the right to vote for 25 years after release from prison, which makes such deprivation almost lifelong. Based on unclassified data, it is difficult to accurately determine the actual number of disenfranchised people.

It should be noted that the number of people convicted on "politically motivated" charges has been relatively low over the past 10 years. However, it is on these charges that thousands of political activists, rally participants, and political staff volunteers are convicted. In the last 10 years, 3,363 people have been convicted on 'extremism' charges. If statistics on administrative offences are taken into account, the number is even more impressive. In 2020 alone, 4,096 people were convicted for producing or distributing extremist material and propaganda or public display of extremist symbols. Given the developments, this number will soon rise sharply.

In particular, mention should be made of citizens who have been convicted under Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation for organising or participating in unauthorised meetings and actions. An interesting feature of this article is that, if used several times, it can become the basis for recognition as an offence under Article 212.1 (the so-called "article of Ildar Dadin"20), which leads to deprivation of the passive electoral right, as it happened in the case of the municipal deputy Yulia Galyamina.

Thus, all those against whom administrative sentences have recently been issued under these articles could potentially be deprived of their right to be elected. According to OVD-info, during the gatherings in support of Alexei Navalny (January-February 2021) more than 11,000 people were detained in more than 125 Russian cities.21 More than 9 thousand cases of administrative offences were initiated and about 90 criminal convictions were opened. Almost 1.8 thousand more people were detained after the April 21 rally. In the case of repeated participation in such peaceful assemblies and actions, their participants run the risk of being deprived of their passive electoral right.

Citizens are also deprived of the right to vote under Articles 20.3 and 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation.

Under Article 20.3 ("Propaganda or public display of Nazi symbols/symbols, symbols/symbols of extremist organisations and other symbols/symbols whose propaganda or public display is prohibited by federal laws"), 2,274 persons were convicted in 2020.

In the same year, 1,822 persons were convicted under Article 20.29 ("Production and dissemination of extremist materials"). In 34 cases, Russian citizens were prosecuted for disseminating Alexei Navalny's banned film "Let's remind crooks and thieves of their Manifesto-2002". The perpetrators were fined between 1 and 3 thousand roubles (EUR 11-33).

It is in relation to these articles that most doubts arise as to the proportionality of the punishment (deprivation of the right to vote) to the actual offence.

The largest number of people who have had their right to stand in elections revoked are those who hold second citizenship or a residence permit in a foreign country. The exact number of Russians with second citizenship is not known. The official figures from different state services vary considerably. According to various estimates, the number could be between 1.3 and 6 million people.

The second largest group are those convicted of theft, including home invasion theft (2 separate charges). More than 1.1 million people were convicted of these offences in the previous decade alone. At the same time, these charges are considered serious offences and provide for disenfranchisement for a period of 10 years after the conviction is overturned or annulled (the term of imprisonment for such cases is up to 8 years). The actual number of people in this group may therefore be much higher.

In third place is the already "traditional" article on drugs (Article 228, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), which most often appears in trumped-up cases, such as the prominent case of Ivan Golunov22, a correspondent who worked in the investigative department of the Meduza internet portal. Between 2010 and 2020, more than 300,000 people were convicted under this article. Crimes under this article are considered serious crimes.

The impact on the Russian political landscape

A significant proportion of people convicted of real crimes have no real intention of taking part in any election, although running in elections has become a mass phenomenon due to the sheer volume of elections of different levels taking place in Russia (in 2019 alone, more than 106,000 candidates ran in local elections23). The really important question, therefore, is to what extent the adopted restrictions are likely to affect those people who are genuinely interested in participating in politics.

In order to answer this question, the Russian Movement for the Defence of Voters' Rights "Golos" conducted monitoring24 of the initiation of administrative and criminal cases, which may lead to the deprivation of passive suffrage, against politicians of different levels. Among them, Golos considered administrative cases under the mentioned earlier "article of Ildar Dadin", since repeated administrative proceedings against a person under this Article may lead to the initiation of a criminal case and entail the deprivation of passive suffrage.

The monitoring covered people whose political ambitions are beyond doubt. These are current deputies of representative bodies at different levels, heads of party branches/branches of political projects (Navalny's headquarters, the recently closed "Open Russia", etc. ) in different regions, and a number of prominent regional politicians who are not yet deputies or are currently not connected with specific parties, but who have actively participated in elections earlier.

Unfortunately, fears that the new restrictions and limitations will affect primarily political activists have already begun to materialize. Among most recent examples being criminal cases opened25 against Andrey Pivovarov and Dmitry Gudkov, both of whom planned to run in2021 State Duma elections.

Moreover, starting from May 23, 2020 (the date when last year's expansion of the grounds for deprivation of passive suffrage came into force), six prominent politicians have been banned from elections. These cases can serve as an example of how the new restrictive law can be applied against political opponents:

  1. Soviet and Russian diplomat, leader of the movement "For a new socialism", Nikolay Platoshkin. In May 2021, he was found guilty26 by the Gagarinsky district court of Moscow under Art. 212, part 1.1, of the Criminal Code of Russia ("Inducing or otherwise inciting a person to commit mass riots, accompanied by violence, disorders, arson, destruction of property, use of weapons, explosive devices, poisonous or other substances and items that endanger others, including armed resistance to a public official"), as well as under Art. 207.1 of the Criminal Code of Russia ("Public dissemination of knowingly false information about circumstances endangering life and safety of citizens"). Platoshkin was sentenced to 5 years of probation and a fine of 700 thousand rubles. Several YouTube videos of Platoshkin became the reason for the charges under the article related to mass riots. Earlier, Amnesty International and Russian human rights center "Memorial" recognized Platoshkin as a prisoner of conscience and a political prisoner, respectively. Platoshkin has been deprived of his passive suffrage.
  2. Former coordinator of Navalny's headquarters in the Arkhangelsk region Andrey Borovikov. In 2020, a criminal case was initiated27 against Borovikov under Art. 242, part 3, clause B, of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Illegal production and circulation of pornographic materials or items"). The reason for the crime was the video of Rammstein posted on the personal VK page of Borovikov in 2014. On April 29, 2021, the Lomonosov court of Arkhangelsk sentenced28 Borovikov to 2.5 years of imprisonment in an ordinary-regime colony, depriving him from his passive suffrage.
  3. Coordinator of the LDPR in Mari El republic, deputy of the State assembly in Mari El, Anton Mirbadalev. On March 25, 2021, the Yoshkar-Ola city court fined29 the head of the local branch of the LDPR Anton Mirbadalev 1,000 rubles, incriminating him the distribution of extremist materials (Art. 20.29 of the Administrative Code) for having disseminated a video, which was recognized extremist in 2013. Anton Mirbadalev's post had been published in 2010 and removed30 in February 2021.
  4. Moscow municipal deputy and organizer of the Zemsky congress Yulia Galyamina, who earlier announced31 her intention to run for the elections of the State Duma deputies. In July 2020, a criminal case was initiated32 against Galyamina under Art. 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picketing"). On December 23, 2020, the court of the Timiryazevsky district of Moscow sentenced33 her to 2 years of probation and deprived34 her of passive suffrage. On March 25, 2021, she was also deprived of the mandate of a district deputy. Galyamina continues to be detained for her social and political activity.35
  5. The former deputy of the Vologda city council, chairman of the movement "Together", Yevgeny Domozhirov. In August 2020, the Vologda city court fined36 Domozhirov two thousand rubles under Art. 20.3, part 1 ("Public demonstration of Nazi symbols") for a video in which he drew Nazi caps to the governor Oleg Kuvshinnikov and the mayor Sergey Voropanov. The video was published in May. In the video entitled "They destroy. True fascists" he complained about the deforestation of the park, trees of which had been planted by veterans of the Great Patriotic War. Domozhirov said that the authorities behave "like true fascists both in relation to the veterans and to their memory". As a result, he has been deprived of his passive suffrage. In 2021, Domozhirov was arrested37 several times for organizing uncoordinated actions38 in support of Alexei Navalny.
  6. Deputy of the Tyumen regional Duma from the Communist party Yuri Yukhnevich, who fearlessly announced39 his ambitions to become a deputy of the State Duma. On March 3, 2021, in Tobolsk, Yukhnevich was found guilty40 of distributing extremist materials (Article 20.29 of the Administrative Code) and fined 1,000 rubles. He was found guilty of an administrative offence for having posted on his VK page a video of Alexei Navalny, dated 2011 and entitled "Let's remind crooks and thieves about their Manifesto-2002". However, the video was declared extremist only in 2013. Yukhnevich has been deprived of his passive suffrage.

It is worth noting that this list does not include those politicians who had been deprived of the right to participate in elections before the 2020 and 2021 legislative amendments. For example, Alexei Navalny.

Golos provides a list41 of further 75 cases of politicians from different regions who are in a "high-risk group" and potential target of the new amendments.

The majority of them (64) may be deprived of their passive suffrage in the nearest future because they have already received administrative penalties for participating in uncoordinated protests (Art. 20.2 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation). In case of repeated violations, these very people may come to a criminal investigation under Art. 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding actions, meetings, demonstrations, processions or picketing").

Among them are several prominent politicians such as the former deputy of four convocations for the State Duma Vladimir Ryzhkov, who announced42 his intention to run for the by-election of deputies of the Moscow city Duma. Ryzhkov was fined43 based on Art. 20.2, part 2, of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation ("Organizing or holding of a public event without filing a proper notification") for reposting information about the unauthorized meeting of April 21 from the "Echo of Moscow" website. The second prominent case is related to the deputy of the Pskov regional assembly and member of the federal political committee of the Yabloko party Lev Shlosberg, who announced44 that he was considering the possibility of running for the State Duma in one of Moscow's districts. On January 26, 2021, Shlosberg received a fine45 under Art. 20.2, part 2, of the Administrative Code ("Organizing or holding of a public event without filing a proper notification") as on January 23 he had invited the participants of the meeting "to go in an organized manner to the territory of the Hyde Park of Moscow".

Numerous other politicians belonging to this "high-risk group" have also faced various other administrative or criminal charges, most often – under Art. 20.33 of the Administrative Code ("Implementation of activities on the territory of the Russian Federation by a foreign or international non-governmental organization in relation to which a decision has been made to recognize its activities as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation") or under Art. 33 part 4 and Art. 236 part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code ("Incitement to a violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules, which inadvertently led to a mass illness or poisoning of people or created a threat of such consequences"). Among those politicians are the 2016 State Duma candidate, one of the closest associates of Alexei Navalny – Moscowite Nikolai Lyaskin. He was charged under Part 4 of Art. 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Fraud committed by a group of persons by the prior conspiracy on an especially large scale", up to 10 years in prison) in the 2013 case of fundraising via an e-money service Yandex wallets in support of Navalny's Moscow mayoral candidacy. In 2021, Lyaskin was also placed under house arrest in connection with charges under Part 4 of Art. 33, part 1 of Art. 236 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Incitement to a violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules, which inadvertently led to a mass illness or poisoning of people or created a threat of such consequences"), because of calls to come to peaceful protests on January 23, 2021, during which he was detained. On January 26, the court arrested him for seven days under Part 8 of Art. 20.2 of the Administrative Code. Lyaskin is also recognised46 as a political prisoner by the human rights center "Memorial".

Another prominent politician who announced her intention to run in 2021 State Duma election was Lyubov Sobol, one of the federal leaders of the political project of Alexei Navalny.47 Sobol was repeatedly fined under Art. 20.2, part 8, of the Administrative Code (repeated "Violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding actions, meetings, demonstrations, processions or picketing") and is under a criminal investigation48 as per Art. 139, part 2, of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Violation of the inviolability of the home") for an attempt to interview one of Navalny's poisoners.

Another example is the case of the ex-coordinator of Navalny's Headquarters in Moscow, Oleg Stepanov, who was accused of committing a crime under Part 4 of Art. 33 and part 1 of Art. 236 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for calls to come to peaceful protests on January 23, 2021. On February 8, he was recognized as a political prisoner by the human rights center "Memorial". He has been under house arrest since January 29, 2021. On January 23, he was also sentenced49 to five days of administrative arrest under Part 2 of Art. 20.2 of the Administrative Code.

Another prominent political figure  within the "risk group" is an opposition politician and the head of Krasnoselsky municipal district of Moscow, Ilya Yashin, who was detained on January 31 at a meeting in support of Alexei Navalny50 and again at the Forum of municipal deputies and charged51 under Art. 20.33 of the Administrative Code.

The remaining 11 out of the 75 politicians listed by "Golos" may lose their passive suffrage due to other charges (with charges against Moscow municipal deputy Ketevan Kharaidze still pending52). Quite a few had been apprehended while attempting to participate in the 2021 "Municipal Russia" forum of regional and municipal deputies. Illustrative examples of such cases include:

  • Former State Duma deputy from Moscow, Dmitry Gudkov. Gudkov's house was searched53 on June 1, 2021, after which he was taken to the Investigative Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow and detained for two days. Later it became known that he was being held as a suspect in a criminal case on causing property damage by deception or abuse of trust with especially large damage (clause "b", part 2 of Art. 165 of the Criminal Code). The head of the international human rights group "Agora" Pavel Chikov, referring to Gudkov's lawyer, explained that this is a non-payment of a debt under a lease agreement for non-residential premises in 2015-2017. After his release, Dmitry Gudkov left the country and announced that he had abandoned his plans to participate in the elections of State Duma deputies;
  • Former executive director of Open Russia Andrey Pivovarov. Several times, Pivovarov was found guilty54,55 under Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code for publishing social media posts calling on opponents of the amendments to the Constitution to take various actions. Then, he was arrested56 for a January protest in support of Alexei Navalny under part 1 of Art. 19.3 of the Administrative Code ("Disobedience to a lawful order of a police officer, a serviceman, an employee of the bodies for control over the circulation of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, an employee of the federal security service, an employee of state security bodies, an employee of bodies authorized to exercise control and supervision in the field of migration, or an employee of a body or institution of the penal system") and under part 8 of Art. 20.2 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation (repeated "Violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding a meeting , meeting, demonstration, procession or picketing"). He was also detained57 at the forum of municipal deputies and charged under Art. 20.33 of the Administrative Code in March of 2021. In April, a protocol was drawn up against him58 under the same article for deliveries of masks and other personal protection equipment to the ambulance station made on behalf of Open Russia.
  • Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg, representative of the "Party of Growth" Maxim Reznik. In March 2021, Reznik was detained59 in Moscow at the "Municipal Russia forum". On June 17, 2021, he was detained60 as a suspect in a drug case against his nephew Ivan Dorofeev, and a search was carried out. Authorities intend to charge him under part 1 of Art. 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("Illicit drug trafficking").
  • Former State Duma deputy and head of Yekaterinburg Yevgeny Roizman, after being arrested61 at the forum of municipal deputies 2021, as well as after participating in the United Democrats conference (charged under Art. 20.33 of the Administrative Code), and taking part in protests62 in support of Alexei Navalny. Roizman also declared his intention to run for the State Duma.

In the face of such extreme pressure, there is no doubt that some of the politicians and activists against whom administrative or criminal proceedings have already been initiated have either given up on running for the upcoming elections or have significantly reduced their political ambitions, thus pushing their candidature to a lower level than they would otherwise do.








6 The organizations recognized by the Russian authorities as extremist and their activities are prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation – REM.

7  The law was initiated by the State Duma deputies V.I. Piskarev, A.G. Alshevskikh, N.I. Ryzhak, A.K. Isaev, R.D. Kurbanov, D.I. Savelyev, A.V. Chepa, and A.L. Shhagoshev.
























































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 …