MOSCOW, August 31 (RIA Novosti) – Mobs attacked offices of two leading Russian cell phone operators in Chechnya, pelting them with eggs in protest against alleged fraud at an online voting contest for best national landmark where a Chechen mosque was denied victory.
Attacks on Friday targeted the offices Megafon and Beeline, two of Russia’s “big three” of cell phone operators, in Grozny, the capital of the North Caucasus republic.
Footage of at least one attack was available on YouTube, the video showing dozens of young men energetically throwing eggs and other objects at a closed office building, while others film them on their own cellphones.
Beeline said Saturday it has temporarily closed all its offices in Chechnya over safety concerns.
The scandal broke out when Grozny’s Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque narrowly lost the second round of the Russia 10 contest, aimed to select Russia’s best unknown landmarks in order to give a boost to domestic tourism and “geopatriotism,” as the organizers attested it.
The mosque ended up some 400,000 votes short of the Kolomna kremlin, a medieval castle in heartland Russia, despite leading the vote most of the time thanks to a massive promotion campaign spearheaded by Chechen leadership.
The mosque scored more than 38 million votes thanks to a rule that allowed repeat voting through text messages, but Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed millions of votes for the prayer house – named after his late father – were never accounted for.
Kadyrov blamed the lost votes on fraud, through representatives for the contest spoke about a technical malfunction that affected votes for all contest entries.
Kadyrov demanded money back for text messages with uncounted votes on Friday and said he was pulling the mosque from the third and final round of the contest, which kicks off on Sunday.
He also said he would stop returning calls by Megafon and Beeline users, urging fellow Chechens to switch instead to local operator Vainakh Telecom.
Chechnya, a mountainous region with a predominantly Muslim population of 1.3 million, saw relative peace after two bloody separatist uprisings in the 1990s and 2000s, but critics say it was only accomplished through ruthless authoritarian policies of the Kremlin-backed Kadyrov regime.