Russia Election Chief Agrees to View ‘Vote Fraud’ Footage

Russia’s chief election official said on Thursday he would agree to see video footage showing alleged voting fraud at mayoral elections in the Caspian port city of Astrakhan if an opposition candidate halts his four week hunger strike.

“I am ready to organize a viewing of episodes of footage from polling stations in the city of Astrakhan on the condition that Oleg Shein calls off his senseless and useless hunger strike,” Central Election Commission head Vladimir Churov said in comments carried by his press service.

Shein, who lost in the March 4 elections, said earlier on Thursday that Churov and state prosecutors had agreed to study the footage.

He vowed, however, to continue refusing food until fresh elections are called. 

But Churov said on Thursday he was not considering annulling the election results. 

Speaking to Astrakhan’s regional legislature, Shein said the hunger strike would continue, but he and several supporters had started drinking fruit juice.    

Astrakhan election officials said Shein, who belongs to the opposition A Just Russia party, lost the elections to pro-Kremlin candidate Mikhail Stolyarov.

But Shein has alleged electoral violations at more than a half of Astrakhan’s 203 polling stations.

Astrakhan chief prosecutor Oleg Dupak said an inquiry did not “confirm” Shein’s allegations.

A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov on Thursday vowed to make the protests nationwide in a bid to force new polls.

President-elect Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Shein should have gone to court instead of launching a hunger strike.

His comments, made during a question-and-answer session in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, prompted a walkout by A Just Russia MPs.

Putin’s landslide victory at last month’s presidential polls was also marred by allegations of electoral fraud.

Shein will file an appeal with a court on Friday, activist Danila Lindele wrote on his Twitter account.

The State Duma is scheduled to discuss a parliamentary report on the Astrakhan vote on Friday.

A number of opposition figures, including influential anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, have joined the Astrakhan protesters.

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