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Russian Vote Monitor Says It Faces Eviction Ahead of March Polls

A Russian vote-monitoring group said it’s facing eviction from its offices ahead of the March 4 presidential election, in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is seeking to return to the Kremlin.

The landlord, the Literaturnaya Gazeta publisher, informed Golos that the electricity will be cut off periodically between Jan. 25 and March 6, said the monitoring group’s head, Lilia Shibanova. The owner resorted to the measure after failing to terminate the lease immediately, she said by phone today.

“This is a major disruption to our work, it’s a catastrophe,” Shibanova said. “It means changing offices, which will keep us occupied for 10 days with less than six weeks before the vote.” Literaturnaya Gazeta could not be reached for comment immediately.

Tens of thousands of people protested in Russian cities after December parliamentary elections, with the opposition accusing Putin’s ruling party of inflating its score from 30 percent to about 50 percent. Putin, 59, needs more than half the vote to win the presidency in the first round. The prime minister, who was president from 2000 to 2008, is running for a new six-year term.

Golos, which receives funding from the U.S. government and the European Union, monitored polling in about about half of Russian regions in the Dec. 4 elections. The group came under pressure before the vote, as prosecutors fined it for violations of electoral law, Shibanova was detained at a Moscow airport and her laptop was confiscated.

Putin pledged honest elections in March when asked in December what he can offer the country as New Year’s gift, after saying he doesn’t need “any manipulation” to win. The prime minister in November said foreign powers are seeking to intervene in elections by financing civil-society groups.

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