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In Russia, Putin's democracy looking more like a facade

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MOSCOW – What can one single vote, confirmed missing, tell us about the current state of democracy in Russia?

A lot, says Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party. He says that the lost vote in question – his own – offers startling evidence to back widespread opposition claims that regional polls held across Russia last week were stage-managed to ensure the victory of pro-Kremlin forces.

The United Russia (UR) party, which is led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, won about 80 percent of all contested positions in some 7,000 districts around the country. In the crucial center of Moscow, UR swept up 32 of the 35 city council seats.

Along with millions of other Russians, Mr. Mitrokhin went with his family to vote at their local polling station, No. 192, in Moscow's tony Khamovniki district on election day. He knows for sure that he voted for his own party ticket.

But when the final official tally was released last weekend, it showed that zero votes for Yabloko were registered at polling station No. 192.

"We know there were massive falsifications in the vote counting, but really, not a single vote for Yabloko?" says Mitrokhin. "It's almost as if they wanted to prove I don't exist as a living being. It looks like the authorities are not even trying to pretend any longer that we are having real elections."

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