Moscow,7 July 2015: On Tuesday morning, 7 July at 6.30 house searches have been conducted at the private flats of Grigori Melkonjanc, deputy director of the EPDE member organization GOLOS, Roman Udot, senior expert of the organization and Tatiana Troinova, director of the inter-regional foundation GOLOS. Documents and technical devices have been confiscated. Later the day the search has been continued at the office of GOLOS in Moscow city. The search was conducted by the Samara department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and officially stands in connection with the long-lasting prosecution of the southern Russian Samara branch of GOLOS.
Already in February 2015 Ludmila Kuzmina, the head of the Samara branch of GOLOS was charged with tax evasion. Tax authorities claimed that Ludmila Kuzmina should have paid taxes in the amount of 2 million Rubles (approx. 40.000 $) for a donation for the work of the regional GOLOS branch in the years 2010-2012. GOLOS declared that time these claims unlawful and has filed legal complaints. Grigori Melkonjanc, deputy director of GOLOS Moscow interprets the new searches in Moscow as an attempt to hinder the observation of the upcoming local elections in September 2015. “They don’t want us to observe on 13 September” he declared via Twitter.
Independent citizens’ election observation as conducted by EPDE member organization GOLOS is a basic right of voters to exert control over election processes. Through membership with the Council of Europe and the OSCE the Russian Federation has committed itself to guarantee these basic rights of its citizens. EPDE strongly protests the ongoing intimidation of independent citizens’ election observers in the Russian Federation through house searches, confiscation of private property, undue tax charges and legal persecution in the framework of a manipulated NGO legislation. We call on the Russian Federation to adhere to its constitutional and international commitments and to guarantee unhindered election observation of the upcoming local elections through independent citizens’ election observers.