Parents in Nizhny Novgorod Asked About Subversive U.S. Actions
Administrators at childcare centers and schools in Nizhny Novgorod have asked their student’s parents which Russian politicians would “fight destabilization” and whether United States’ espionage activity could impact Russia’s integrity in questionnaires the children took home to their parents.
Alexei Sadomovsky, a member of the organizing committee of the Nizhny Novgorod Civic Council, said the questionnaires about politics in Russia were distributed at four schools and two childcare centers, most of them located in the city’s Moskovsky District.
One of the questions was, “The media write that the new U.S. ambassador has met with representatives of some political parties. Can the United States’ espionage activity affect Russia’s stability and integrity?” Other questions concerned the risk of Russia losing its sovereignty and whether any national leader or “incumbent politician” can “fight these destabilizing processes.” The suggested answers to the question about the parents’ highest concerns were “loss of state sovereignty,” “hunger, idle companies and unemployment,” “a political coup, a civil war and the seizure of power.”
“I wrote that my biggest concern was that our children were being asked to bring home questionnaires about politics,” Yelena, the mother of a student from School 67, told Moskovskiye Novosti.
School 67 Principal Dina Rangnau said “a woman” brought the questionnaires in on February 6. “All kinds of opinion polls have been held through the school,” she said. “One recent poll concerned the quality of education. So I didn’t ask which organization was conducting the poll. We do what we are told, so we distributed the questionnaires.” She said that many children returned blank forms and that all the answers in some questionnaires were marked “No.” “I don’t think that the parents took the poll seriously, especially since they were not required to give their names,” Rangnau said. The administration at School 93 could not say who delivered the questionnaires either. “Some of the teachers have complained about being pressured by the local administration but they are unwilling to speak up,” Sadomovsky said.
Some childcare teachers had to explain the meaning of certain questions to parents, a local resident said. She said the kindergarten administrators were held responsible for the questionnaires which were brought in by an employee from the Center for Socio-Economic Monitoring.
According to the Moskovsky District Administration, it was probably a misunderstanding that children were asked to take the questionnaires to their parents. No one at the Center for Socio-Economic Monitoring was available for comment.
This is not a direct violation of the law, said Andrei Buzin, an expert at Golos, an independent election monitor. “The law on education prohibits any kind of political organizations or propaganda at schools. But these questionnaires do not directly refer to any electoral candidate and do not contain direct propaganda,” he said, adding that this is most likely a simple case of unethical behavior.
Public Associations Team Up to Monitor Presidential Election
Several public associations will combine their efforts to monitor the voting at many polling stations across Russia. Candidate Vladimir Putin’s headquarters is building a staff of vote observers as well.
Several public associations advocating fair elections joined an election observers’ forum last Saturday to agree on a coordinated effort during the March 4 presidential vote. “Our goal is to prevent crooks and thieves from stealing the presidential election from us, as they did with the parliamentary elections,” forum participants said in a final statement.
One activist, Alexei Zaitsev, said each observer can only leave his post after obtaining a copy of the final protocol with its unique number. He advised them to take food or whatever they might need to be able to stay at the post. “Study the Election Commission’s guidelines to be able to refer to them in response to any false statements,” he said.
The fair elections groups would have been unable to send representatives to every polling station, explained Mikhail Velmakin, head of the Observers School project. Having pooled our resources, we will be able to distribute them evenly and cover as many stations as we can, he said. Their efforts will be coordinated by a council and a website, заметим.рф, which will feature an interactive map of polling stations in Moscow. Each group will conduct separate observer training, but all observers will meet for last-minute instructions at the next forum which will take place one day before the election.
Each group will provide between 500 and 1,000 observers, Velmakin said. They will have media IDs. In Moscow, they will also be representing candidates for the city legislature. As for observers representing presidential candidates, “the issue is under consideration.” After the election, the protocols will be collected and analyzed. “We are building a pool of lawyers who will file lawsuits against any attempted fraud,” he said.
At the same time, Vladimir Putin’s HQ is building a staff of vote observers. The coordination council, which includes the youth branch of Russia’s Association of Lawyers, lawyer Igor Trunov’s movement for democracy and legality, the Voters’ League, and right-wing politician Boris Nadezhdin, has so far failed to name representatives for each region and to calculate the number of observers. The young lawyers submitted a list of representatives from 69 regions, while Trunov said his list will be ready by the next meeting on February 14.
A source at Putin’s HQ said most of their observers will represent the Lawyers’ Association, while Trunov’s representatives will be added to the list. Boris Nadezhdin, who used to head the Right Cause party in the Moscow Region, also agreed to find observers for local polling stations. At this point, he said he has about 500 stations covered, while the Moscow Region has over 3,000. He will certainly not be able to complete the list by February 14.
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