Russia: election monitor arrested ahead of vote

In the latest iteration of Russia's ongoing crackdown on dissent, a Moscow court on Aug. 18 ordered the detention of Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of independent election monitoring organization Golos. The organization announced in a statement that the initial detention period was set at two months pending an investigation into charges that Melkonyants worked with an "undesirable" NGO—a crime in Russia, punishable with six years in prison.

Melkonyants' arrest came amid a flurry of searches of the homes and offices of Golos associates in recent days, according to the statement. The organization attributed the timing of the arrest and searches to Russia's upcoming regional elections, and next year's presidential elections:

We are convinced that the true purpose of this attack on Golos is to prevent public observation on the eve of the Russian presidential election campaign and the upcoming September 10 regional elections. Some high-ranking officials are not concealing this fact.

Russia's silencing of opposition-minded activists has been relentless since the country's invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this year, Amnesty International's Russia director, Natalia Zviagina, described the situation:

In the past two years, the Russian government has only intensified its witch-hunt of opposition and civil society organizations. Not one critic, human rights defender or independent journalist is safe from the threat of persecution, reprisals and repression.

From Jurist, Aug. 18. Used with permission.

Note: A report in The Moscow Times reveals the "undesirable" NGO as the Montenegro-based European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO).

In 2020, Vladimir Putin pushed through constitutional changes allowing him to run for two more six-year terms when his current one ends in 2024. The Russian constitution previously required the president to step down after serving two consecutive terms.

See our last report on the crackdown on dissent in Russia.