Newsletters / Russians Say No to Putin’s indefinite rule

Read experts’ analysis: The Kremlin ordered plebiscite vote is a scam!

On the 1st of July, Russia will take part in a ‘plebiscite vote’, deciding whether or not to endorse a set of fundamental changes to the Russian Constitution.

Instead of a legally-binding referendum, that is defined by the Constitution, an illegal and non-transparent voting procedure has been proposed, in which voter observation is very difficult, and the scope for voter fraud is unlimited. Experts argue that although the Kremlin presents this as a set of amendments, the only relevant issue here is the resetting of Putin’s presidential terms.

“Let’s stop treating the 1st of July as a vote. This is actually a rally, in support for Putin’s reset. (…) Don’t fall for their tricks! Just say “NO”! “

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Despite the restrictions in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Russian citizens have been vocal in protesting against the proposed amendments. Several attempts of fraud and irregularities, ahead of the vote, have already been reported.

Watch MBK’s blog on the vote

“NO!” campaign

Open Russia has been organising a “NO!” campaign, opposing the unlawful changes to the constitution. Almost 80 thousand people have signed a petition, against Vladimir Putin remaining in power until the age of 81. Whilst rallies were impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign focused on other means of demonstrations, such as distributing merchandise, placing stickers on propaganda posters, and issuing detailed statements regarding the consequences of the upcoming vote to Russian citizens. Despite these protests, the “NO!” campaign was officially denied media airtime to make its pitch to the people of Russia.

Funeral of the Constitution

In St. Petersburg, during a rally named the “funeral of the Constitution”, more than 20 people, including Open Russia chairperson Anastasia Burakova, were detained. The protesters came to the building of the Constitutional Court to lay flowers, and then held a series of solo pickets on the nearby square, highlighting problems with the vote.

Little protest

The “Vesna” movement in St Petersburg organised a “rally of dolls”. Whilst people were not allowed to gather, activists staged dolls with banners, protesting against “turning citizens into puppets of the authorities”, by forcing them to participate in an illegal vote.

Double trouble

Journalist Pavel Lobkov reported on Sunday that he managed to vote twice in the vote on the amendments: first at a polling station and then online. Lobkov’s paper ballot was later cancelled and only his online vote was taken into account.

$2 for your vote

TV Rain discovered that Muscovites were being offered money to register and vote online in support of amendments to the Constitution. Citizens were promised 75 rubles for each registration, and 50 rubles for voting from an account. Two days after the material was published, the reporter who broke the story was questioned by police. Officers came to his house during the night and attempted to bring him in for questioning.

Employees dragged to the voting booths

Authorities have been pressuring employers  to boost turnout in the vote, in order to portray that there are people rallying behind Putin.

Russian health workers across the country say they are also being pressured by their superiors to vote on the constitutional amendments. In St Petersburg, a nurse told Novaya Gazeta that she was informed that not voting would be treated the same as not attending for work. Reports coming from Vladivostok, in the northern republic of Komi, Arkhangelsk, as well as another two in the Urals region of Chelyabinsk, are especially insulting at a time when medical workers have been struggling in the midst of the pandemic.