Several staff of barred Russian anti-war candidate arrested ahead of election

By Thomson Reuters Mar 13, 2024 | 1:12 PM

By Lucy Papachristou

LONDON (Reuters) – Several campaign staffers and volunteers for disqualified Russian presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin have been arrested in what he cast as an attempt by authorities to thwart efforts to monitor the presidential election later this week.

At least one Nadezhdin staffer said he was physically attacked in the days before the March 15-17 ballot.

Although Nadezhdin conceded weeks ago he had no chance of appearing on the ballot, the anti-war politician’s offices have remained active and he had said he was raising funds to train election observers and conduct exit polls.

At least 17 of Nadezhdin’s associates have been detained since he was banned from running in February, Russian media reports and his team say, even as President Vladimir Putin is almost guaranteed this week to win another six years in power.

Nadezhdin’s Vladivostok branch, in Russia’s Far East, said that at least three staffers had been detained on Wednesday morning and that the whereabouts of two remain unknown.

One of those detained, Igor Krasnov, the local branch head, was later given six days’ administrative arrest under an anti-LGBT propaganda statute.

Commenting on Krasnov’s detention, Nadezhdin said: “The real purpose of such actions by ‘law enforcement officers’ is to prevent the guys from participating in the elections on March 15-17, including observing at the precinct election commission and participating in exit polls.

“Similar actions were also carried out in Moscow and Stavropol,” Nadezhdin added in a post on his Telegram channel, without elaborating.

Rights group OVD-Info reported that another 18-year-old volunteer in Vladivostok was also jailed on Wednesday for six days.

Later on Wednesday, Konstantin Larionov, head of the Nadezhdin branch in Kaluga in western Russia, was reportedly beaten by unknown men while returning home from work, according to pictures he posted on Telegram showing himself receiving first aid for bruises on his forehead, arms and knees.

A spokesperson for Nadezhdin said on Telegram that the attack was associated with the man’s political work and added: “We demand an objective investigation and punishment of those responsible!”

Campaigning on a ticket to end the war in Ukraine, Nadezhdin’s short-lived presidential run garnered a groundswell of support among some mostly young, urban Russians.

Thousands queued in the depths of winter to sign their names in support of his candidacy, which was later barred by the Central Election Commission due to what it said were irregularities in the signatures.

Even from the sidelines, Nadezhdin’s politicking has proved a disturbance to the Kremlin, which says Putin is the overwhelming choice of the Russian people.

The sight of tens of thousands of Russians, including Nadezhdin, coming to pay their respects earlier this month at the grave of the late Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was a further annoyance for the Kremlin.

Some 14 staffers from Nadezhdin’s Voronezh headquarters in southern Russia were unable to attend Navalny’s funeral on March 1 after some were detained while trying to board a train to Moscow, according to Russian media reports. Several were given short jail sentences.

Other Nadezhdin staffers were detained by traffic police as they were trying to leave Voronezh for Moscow by car.

(Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; editing by Mark Heinrich)