On September 29, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation added 20 election experts of the Movement for the Protection of the Voters Rights “Golos” to the “register of foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent”. Qualifying Golos observers as "foreign agents" at a time when every day more falsifications of the elections to the State Duma are being revealed, is an obvious revenge of the Russian authorities for detection of massive electoral manipulations after September 19th Duma elections. Already in August 2021 the unregistered movement for the Protection of Voters’ Rights Golos itself was “labeled a foreign agent”. It is yet another blow against the independent network of civil election observers aimed at making it more difficult in the future to monitor and reveal facts of election fraud. The victims of this hit are the most qualified and professional election experts, popular both in Russia and internationally, who until recently participated in different expert groups of the Central Election Commission, headed by Ella Panfilova.
Stigmatization of experts and observers who criticize the authorities for election falsifications is accompanied by attempts to isolate them from foreign partners and institutions. Two days before the 20 Golos observers were listed "foreign agents", the European Network of Election Monitoring Organisations (ENEMO) where Golos was a member, was included into the list of "undesirable foreign organisations". The ENEMO network has been organizing observation missions in southern and eastern European countries for over 15 years, based on an internationally recognized methodology and recruiting observers from among European citizen observation organizations, including Russia. ENEMO, however, has never been given the opportunity to observe elections in Russia and has never even published a report of any mission in Russian. Therefore, including ENEMO in the list of undesirable organizations in Russia has only one goal - to prevent the exchange of experience and joint observation activities of experts from Russia and other countries. A similar purpose was the recognition of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) as undesirable in Russia just five days before the presidential election on 18 March 2018. Any cooperation with an organization deemed "undesirable" threatens Russian citizens with a prison sentence of up to six years. Golos was thus forced to temporarily suspend its membership in both the EPDE and the ENEMO network.
EPDE calls on the Russian authorities to stop further repressions and intimidation of independent citizen election observers in Russia. EPDE also calls on international institutions to mention and to criticize the harassment of independent election observers in their contacts and communication with the Russian authorities, whose political legitimacy is highly questionable in the face of the election fraud exposed by Golos and other organizations. In particular, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE should redefine contacts with parliamentarians from Russia, whose election was held in violation of international norms and standards.