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Watchdog group Golos accuses Putin of fresh election violations

Golos says opposition is evicted from offices, intimidated and spied on, ahead of March 4 vote.

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Supporters of the Russian Communist Party rally on January 21, 2012 in Moscow against election violations ahead of the March presidential polls. Russian investigators on January 21 said they had launched a probe into multiple violations during last month's parliamentary polls, ahead of a new report by Western observers. Since the December 2011 elections, Russians have held unprecedented mass rallies against vote fraud in a major challenge to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's rule as he seeks a return to the Kremlin in March elections. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

MALMO, Sweden — Vladimir Putin has already broken a string of election laws in the run-up to Russia’s Presidential election on March 4, Golos, the country’s only independent elections watchdog, has concluded in its first report on the election.

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“Active steps are being taken to obstruct the activities of both the opposition and nongovernmental organizations," the group said in the 16-page report, which was published on Monday. 

The report noted that opposition organizations have been evicted from their offices, seen their phone calls and emails bugged, and faced other forms of intimidation. 

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It said Putin had illegally used his position as Russia’s Prime Minister to promote his bid, campaigning through the All-Russia People's Front movement, which is linked to his government offices. 

Others speculate that he also illegally launched his campaign weeks before the official start of the election, outlining his platform in articles in three leading newspapers. 

By law, candidates cannot start campaigning in the mass media until 4 February. 

Nonetheless, Golos official Alexander Kynev noted a marked improvement on last year’s elections for the state parliament, where flagrant abuses led to widespread street protests. 

"We have the impression that lessons have been learned from last fall,” he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120131/although-putin-coming-under-fire-violating-election-laws-