mobilization briefs
March 18

Mobilization in Russia for March 15-17, 2024 CIT Volunteer Summary

Russia’s "Presidential Election"

(For details on the first day of the election, click here.)

With the three-day voting campaign finally finished in Russia, the Central Election Commission is finalizing its preordained outcome. According to preliminary results reported by the Central Election Commission, with 60% of ballots already counted by the time this summary is being posted, Vladimir Putin amassed 87.26% of the vote. 

Incidents at Polling Stations

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, small acts of civil disobedience sparked at polling stations, with individuals launching arson attacks and spraying dye, ink, or paint into ballot boxes:

  • In Mozdok, Russia’s constituent republic of North Ossetia–Alania, a 27-year-old woman was detained after attempting to spoil ballots by spraying them with iodine.
  • In Tobolsk, Tyumen region, a 22-year-old medical student detonated a firecracker at a polling station, injuring his hand and forehead. He was detained after the incident.
  • In Kuragino, Krasnoyarsk region, a 47-year-old woman was detained for pouring brilliant green onto the lid of the ballot box, spoiling her ballot. No ballots inside the box were spoiled.
  • In Yekaterinburg, Emilia Nosova, a professor at the Ural Federal University, attempted to spill brilliant green over the ballot box. She was arrested for 15 days for misdemeanor.
  • Also in Yekaterinburg, a man was detained at the polling station for attempting to spray green paint, which led to his arrest for 15 days.
  • In Zelenogradsk, Kaliningrad region, a woman poured brilliant green into the ballot box and was detained by police.
  • In the village of Mayma, Altai Republic, an elderly woman attempted to pour brilliant green into the ballot box at the polling station, but she was stopped by members of the commission and an officer of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
  • In Saint Petersburg, at a polling station, an unknown caustic gas was dispersed. The station temporarily halted its operation: the ballots were secured in a safe, and the premises were ventilated. There is no information available regarding the apprehension of the perpetrator.
  • In Borisoglebsk, Voronezh region, for the third time, a ballot box was splashed with brilliant green. A 19-year-old woman has been detained. The day before, two elderly women were apprehended in the same town for damaging the ballots with brilliant green.
  • In the Belgorod region, a woman also poured brilliant green into a ballot box and was apprehended by election commission's members.
  • In Volgograd, there was an attempted arson attack on a polling station, but no information has been provided about the arrest of the arsonist.
  • In Krasnodar, a 13-year-old girl set fire to a tablecloth at the polling station. Psychologists and police officers are working with her.
  • In Perm, a 64-year-old woman brought a firecracker to the polling station, which she then detonated in the restroom. The explosion resulted in the woman losing her hand, and she is currently hospitalized; there have been no reports of other casualties.

Against the backdrop of numerous incidents at polling stations, authorities have intensified security measures by implementing bag checks at polling stations. In the Altai region [Russia’s federal subject], police officers were stationed near the ballot boxes to inspect voters' bags. Similar measures were introduced in Crimea. In Murmansk, voters underwent searches, while in Yekaterinburg, they were asked to surrender lighters. In Kazan, voters had their bags checked and were required to empty their pockets at polling stations, while the curtains in voting booths were removed.

In Chelyabinsk, people entering polling stations had their personal belongings inspected and then ballots were checked as voters exited the booths. Similarly, in the Moscow region, police violated the secrecy of the vote by taking ballots from voters directly. In Voronezh, a CCTV camera was installed above the voting booth, recording all activity inside. In the Sverdlovsk region, heads of local election commissions were warned about their personal responsibility for any damage to property and ballots at the polling station.

According to Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta], by the morning of March 16, at least 15 criminal cases had been initiated for "obstruction of the electoral process." Two suspects have been placed in pre-trial detention centers: in Saint Petersburg, a young woman was arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail onto the porch of a school housing two polling stations, and in Moscow, another young woman was detained for pouring brilliant green into a ballot box. Meanwhile, an Ivanovo resident who set fire to a ballot box at a polling station has been released on recognizance. Furthermore, three more individuals have had criminal cases initiated against them: a Cheboksary resident who poured an unknown liquid into a ballot box, a young man from Tobolsk who detonated a firecracker near the polling station, and a woman from Kuragino who spilled brilliant green on the ballot box lid.

The Vyorstka media outlet concluded that, on the first day of the "presidential elections," authorities initiated more criminal cases for "obstruction of the electoral process" than in the five years prior. The media outlet also reported that half of the 34 individuals detained for setting fire to polling stations and damaging ballots with paint turned out to be over 50 years old. Several of them indicated that phone scammers incited their actions (1, 2, 3, 4). The OVD-Info independent human rights project has also noted this issue.

Ella Pamfilova, the Chair of the Central Election Commission, stated that attempts to damage ballots with paint or fire took place in 29 polling stations across 20 regions. By the evening of March 16, officials declared 214 ballots irreparably damaged. Members of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia]] have proposed amending article 141 of the Criminal Code, Obstruction of the Exercise of Electoral Rights or of the Work of Election Commissions, and increase the maximum sentence to eight years imprisonment. According to TASS [Russian state-owned news agency], lawmakers will introduce a bill for this purpose in the coming days. Tatyana Moskalkova, Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested that lawmakers should permit citizens whose ballots were damaged to re-vote.

Electoral Fraud

Voting took place amid pressure to participate and submit reports of participation. Teachers across the country complained of management coercion to ensure the parents of their students went to the polling stations. Managers of state enterprises in the Pskov region required employees to share screenshots from the Gosuslugi public services portal. A manager of a psychiatric hospital in Perm attempted to force the staff to participate in the "election," submit a report and share ballot photos of their ballots. The Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel identified over 450 state organizations that publicly announced that their employees had voted on the first day of the "election." Management in some state organizations instructed their employees to submit voting reports using QR codes.

Since the evening of Friday, March 15, reports of attempts at ballot box stuffing have been emerging. Videos from Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod region, allegedly show a mass ballot box stuffing incident. Golos [the movement for voters' rights] published a video of stuffing the ballot box at polling station No. 2325 in Krasnodar. In the video, commission member Victoria Gromakova exits the voting booth and throws several ballots into the ballot box. Additionally, Golos published another video showing an attempt to stuff ballots at polling station No. 2341 in Krasnodar. The video reveals a neat stack of ballots inside the ballot box. The stuffing of two ballot packs was also recorded in the Grigoryevskaya village in the Krasnodar region, as reported by Ilya Kiyutin, an election commission member from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

Furthermore, it is reported that a ballot box stuffing incident was recorded at polling station No. 2358 in Krasnodar. Ruslan Khubaev, a commission member who discovered the violation, and observer Dmitry Korolyov were detained. Khubaev was taken to the police department, while Korolyov's whereabouts remain unknown. Both men have not been in contact. The following day, a court found Khubaev guilty of "demonstrating extremist symbols" and petty hooliganism, sentencing him to 14 days of arrest. The judgment was based on a social media post by Khubaev that included symbols of a certain banned organization.

In Saratov, a precinct election commission member Sergey Gendin observed stuffing the ballot box at a polling station in Solaris lyceum: another election commission member Elena Shmelyova inserted a stack of ballots into a ballot box. In the Voronezh region, activist Pavel Sychev reported that an independent observer had discovered that ballots were stuffed into a ballot box before the polling station opened. Later, the police issued a warning to Sychev, and the government of the Voronezh region declared that it was facing "information attacks" from "pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian resources." A public servant from Chechnya [Russia's constituent republic] informed Golos about the organization of "carousel voting" in the republic: he was personally forced to vote at seven different polling stations, which is part of efforts at achieving a 90-percent turnout.

Oddities in the "Elections"

More than 850 polling stations across Russia either failed to report voter turnout for the first day of voting or reported a turnout of 0%, according to Vazhnye Istorii [IStories, an independent Russian investigative media outlet]. Meanwhile, Vyorstka pointed out that in parts of Kursk and Belgorod regions bordering Ukraine that have recently been subjected to regular shelling, almost 270,000 people cast their votes, making up more than 80% of the electorate. On March 15, voter turnout reached 100% at several polling stations in Saint Petersburg. Additionally, "Vazhnyye Istorii" recorded an abnormal surge in voter turnout on March 15 at various stations across Russia, with figures in some locations leaping from 2% to 75% within just five hours. Journalists identified such instances in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Crimea, and the Samara region. Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] observed that on the first day of voting, all 136 polling stations in Stary Oskol, Belgorod region, reported identical turnout rates. According to GAS Vybory [Russian state-run automated election system], by 3 p.m., approximately 47% of voters in the city had shown up at the polls. This could indicate centralized manipulations of voting results. Electoral expert Roman Udot discovered election falsifications in the Kemerovo region, evidenced by nearly identical turnout data across several polling stations. The data on turnout and falsifications can be independently verified using the service provided by Udot.

At polling station No. 1261 in Yekaterinburg, several individuals were informed that they had to vote in the "DPR," and at polling station No. 2627, voters found themselves re-registered to vote in the Zaporizhzhia region, despite not being refugees from the occupied territories. It had been previously reported that 4.5 million people were registered to vote in the occupied regions of Ukraine, despite the actual number of the adult population being no more than 3 million. Meanwhile, in Izhevsk and Perm, several voters arriving at polling stations found out that someone had already voted in their names. In Primorye, a man found his deceased wife, who passed away 14 years ago, listed as an eligible voter. On the VKontakte social network page of Pavel Kimeklis, a resident of Saint Petersburg who died in 2010, seven posts encouraging people to vote for Putin appeared on the morning of March 15.

"Noon Against Putin"

On March 16, the day before the planned "Noon Against Putin" protest, Moscow residents began receiving en masse messages from bots accusing them of supporting "extremist ideas" and demanding to vote "without queues." The recipients included individuals who had shown support to Boris Nadezhdin and those who had attended Alexei Navalny's funeral. Specifically, subscribers of the Astra Telegram channel, readers of Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] and Agentstvo.Novosti received such messages. The latter media outlet suggests that the data of message recipients have been sourced either from a leaked 2021 database of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation or from the Gosuslugi website. Journalist Andrey Zakharov analyzed these instances and posited that only the state could compile such a comprehensive database.

On Sunday, March 17, the "Noon Against Putin" protest took place across Russia and abroad, starting at 12:00 p.m. local time. Lines of people eager to vote formed in Moscow (1, 2), Saint Petersburg (1, 2), and other Russian cities, as well as overseas, particularly at Russian embassies in Lithuania, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Bishkek, Tel Aviv, Berlin, where Yulia Navalnaya was present, and in other countries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Meanwhile, în Chișinău, Moldova, an unidentified individual threw a Molotov cocktail onto the premises of the Russian embassy, where a line of people wishing to vote had formed. There were no reports of injuries, and the person responsible for the arson was apprehended by the police.

In Moscow, after the "Noon Against Putin" protest, people brought ballots bearing the name of Alexei Navalny to his grave at the Borisovskoye Cemetery and left messages for the deceased politician.


Throughout the three days of the "elections," numerous detentions occurred. According to OVD-Info, at least 80 individuals were detained in 20 cities across Russia. Additionally, Astra reports at least two detentions and one police intervention as a result of inscriptions on ballots in Moscow and the Moscow region. For instance, in the Ramenki district of Moscow, a young man was detained for writing "Putin is a murderer" on his ballot, while in Podolsk, local activist Maria Alekseyeva was detained. Lawyers interviewed by the Agentstvo.Novosti have stated that they see no violation of legal norms in the actions of the voters. Later, Alekseyeva was fined 30,000 rubles [$330] for so-called discrediting the Armed Forces. In Odintsovo, a man was detained for writing the word "boycott" in the voter list book and attempting to take away a ballot. According to Meduza, at least at some polling stations, voters were not allowed to fold their ballots, and "overseers" stood next to the ballot boxes, which, according to witnesses, forced them to vote for the "candidate of despair" and abandon the idea of spoiling their ballots. In Kazan, about 20 individuals were detained for arriving at the polling station on March 17 at 12:00 p.m. for voting—they were later released without charges.

A couple was detained at a polling station in Moscow for wearing a scarf with a George Orwell quote. Additionally, in Moscow, Election Commission member Vyacheslav Golikov was detained for wearing a T-shirt with the inscription "Navalny."

Kolomna resident Karina Gradusova was detained along with her one-and-a-half-year-old child after the child scribbled on a ballot. The woman was fined and held at the police station for over four hours awaiting the Federal Security Service (FSB). In Saint Petersburg, a woman was not allowed to leave the polling station for 25 minutes allegedly due to inscriptions on her ballot, despite needing a walking cane after leg surgery. In Kirov, a girl was detained for leaving carnations at the polling station's wall. Cherepovets resident Vladimir Burov was detained for attempting to take his ballot out of the polling station. Alexandr Shokhirev was detained in Bratsk, Irkutsk region, after voting. Law enforcement officers claim that he "did not vote properly"—his ballot was visible through a transparent ballot box. Bulat Khalikov from Ufa, Bashkortostan [Russia’s constituent republic], was detained for an attempt to put a Navalny photo into the ballot box but was later released.

At the polling station in Irkutsk, a police squad was called after a voter glued the names of opposition politicians Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Yulia Navalnaya onto his ballot. Opposite Putin's name, he affixed a label "potential convict." Later, the man was released without charges.

In Novokuybyshevsk, Alla Fadeeva, a local resident, was detained after an "extremist" note was found in the voting booth. In Barnaul on March 17, a female voter attempted to tear up documents of election commission members. The head of the Election Observation Centre stated that the voter could face criminal charges for obstructing citizens' electoral rights. In Volgograd, three people were detained near a polling station, according to OVD-Info.

On March 15, in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject], a volunteer conducting exit polls was detained. Chelyabinsk activist Kirill Zamanov, scheduled to conduct voter surveys after the election, was detained near his home. Volunteers conducting exit polls were also detained in Kazan. In Karelia [Russia’s constituent republic], local resident Artyom Ratnikov was taken to the FSB office for interrogation after a search. He was later released. Olga Nedvetskaya, a member of an election commission from Kaliningrad, was detained by the officers of the General Directorate for Countering Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, known as "Center E."

Dmitry Rumyantsev, the head of Nadezhdin’s local office, was assaulted in Kazan. While the voting polls were open, four observers struck him twice on the shoulder. Later, Rumyantsev was charged with resisting law enforcement, held for three days, and fined 70,000 rubles [$760]. In addition, the head of the local Nadezhdin office in Kaluga was detained, and searches were conducted among activists in Izhevsk.

Activist Gulnaz Orlova was detained in her apartment in Kazan and taken to the police station, with the cited reason being her social media posts about election violations; she is being charged with organizing a protest. In Ryazan, police detained human rights activists Alexander Bechtold, Mikhail Shestakov and Dmitry Yezhov. After taking statements from them, all three were released. Human rights activist Sofia Ivanova was also detained.