Tula Residents Paid to Vote for United Russia

United Russia. Source: VedomostiA scandal has erupted in the Russian city of Tula over allegations that residents have been offered cash to vote for the Kremlin-backed United Russia party in upcoming regional elections, Kommersant newspaper reports.

The newspaper quoted Sergei Filatov, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, as having obtained photographs and video of how the votes were paid for: In a car parked next to a voting station in Tula School #52, unknown persons wrote down voters’ information and then paid them in cash after completing the early voting process.

According to Filatov, voters were given 500 rubles (about $17) to vote for United Russia, and 100 rubles ($3.40) to vote for A Just Russia, an opposition party loyal to the Kremlin.

Some voters had complained that they did not receive the money promised to them after voting, since the car had taken off by the time they were done. Other witnesses have filed statements with the local police bureau confirming that a massive campaign to buy up votes was apparently underway. Yabloko, meanwhile, is preparing to file a complaint with the regional electoral committee.

Moreover, a Kommersant correspondent reported that agitators from United Russia had come to his house the day before, offering 300 rubles ($10.24) to vote for their party.

The news is the latest in a number of controversial incidents involving the upcoming elections. A number of opposition parties have been altogether banned from ballot in various cities, and others have been facing pressure from the Central Electoral Commission.

Regional elections are set to take place throughout Russia on March 14, and follow last October’s scandalous regional elections that triggered an unprecedented walkout by opposition party leaders in the State Duma in light of widespread allegations of voter fraud. President Dmitri Medvedev admitted at the time that the elections were “not sterile,” but refused to annul them all the same.