Prosecutors Side with Protesters in Lermontov

Prosecutors in the Stavropol region sided with grassroots protesters against fellow state officials in requesting the dismissal of a bureaucrat whose actions triggered a weeks-long standoff that made national headlines.

Natalya Yarmolich, head of the election commission in the town of Lermontov in southern Russia, is responsible for the commission’s routine violations of the law that sparked protests and a mass hunger strike, regional prosecutors said on their website on Monday.

The violations took place in the run-up to the municipal elections in Lermontov in March, during which several opposition candidates were disqualified by the local election commission over minor paperwork violations, prosecutors said.

The power to remove Yarmolich lies with the regional election commission, which did not comment on the prosecutors’ request on Monday.

Some three dozen disqualified candidates and their supporters staged a hunger strike in Lermontov, insisting they were victims of administrative pressure from regional authorities, who allegedly wanted to install their own candidates in the local legislature. Stavropol governor’s office retaliated by calling protesters subversive agents of foreign powers.

The standoff, a rarity in the Russian provinces, also saw residents of Lermontov, a city of 22,000, rally in the hundreds and briefly storm the local administration, with riot police, unusually, declining to intervene.

The conflict, which happened during the presidential campaign and threatened to backfire on the victorious campaign of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, ended with the disputed municipal elections canceled two days before the vote on March 4. The deadline for the new vote is June 17.


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