Dmitry Mezentsev, an ally of Vladimir Putin and a candidate in Russia's upcoming presidential elections, has been accused of falsifying his election registration documents.
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A non-profit watchdog group called Democratic Choice said they caught unidentified people in a room at at a university in Moscow compiling fake lists of Russian citizens who supposedly support Mezentsev's candidacy, The Guardian reported.
The group has posted videos on their website which show young people writing lists of citizens' names by hand in an auditorium; several of them hide their faces from the camera, while others refuse to explain what they are doing to the activists who are filming.
"They were hand-copying names, addresses and passport numbers from a printed database on to official lists in support of Mezentsev, whose name was written at the top," Igor Drandin, one of the Democratic Choice activists, told the Guardian. "The details of people on the lists were from various Russian regions. I'm sure it was a falsification."
Mezentsev rejected the accusations in a radio interview. He said members of a railway workers union had arranged a training session at the university for volunteers who would collect signatures for his bid, The Guardian reported.
Because he is an independent candidate not recommended by an established political party, Mezentsev is required to collect two million signatures from Russian citizens from at least 40 regions by Jan. 18 in order to qualify for the election, the Guardian reported.
"The other facts are conjectures and inventions," said Mezentsev of the accusations against him.
Mezentsev, 52, is the current governor of the Irkutsk region, and is running as a 'back-up' candidate to ensure that Putin will have legitimate elections. According to Russian law, a vote is declared valid when at least two candidates take part; the opposition thus has a chance to disrupt the elections when all candidates withdraw, according to RIA Novosti News.
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Putin is widely expected to win the elections, set for March 4, 2012. A December survey by the Levada Center polling agency found that 46 percent of those polled intended to vote for Putin. The prime minister's closet rival was communist Gennady Zyuganov, with 14 percent. If no candidate gets more than half of the vote, it becomes a run-off.