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Helsinki Commission Leaders Call on Russian Authorities to Respect Democracy Commitments

WASHINGTON – Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Senate Ranking Member Roger Wicker (MS), and House Ranking Member Alcee Hastings (FL-23) released the following statement on the December 4 Duma election–Russia’s most controversial election in decades.

“These elections didn’t happen in a vacuum, but against the backdrop of a strident and cynical effort to limit ballot access and squelch public dissent. Russian executive authority controls national TV and the courts. They denied ballot access to genuine opposition parties and kept their message off the airwaves. The Russian Foreign Ministry spares no effort in its attempts to weaken the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) democracy promoting efforts, particularly election observation, while authorities inside Russia ruthlessly harass domestic observers. Further, unprecedented cyber attacks have brought down many websites in Russia dedicated to providing timely information on election violations. Despite these efforts, widespread violations on Election Day, including ballot box stuffing and carousel voting were documented by the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights as well as countless domestic observers.

“We are deeply troubled over reports of the mistreatment of hundreds of demonstrators who have recently been arrested and are now in pre-trial detention facilities complaining of the lack of access to counsel, medical help, and basic foodstuffs. We call on the Russian government to comply with international norms and commitments to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and urge authorities to respect the people’s right to demonstrate and demand that their voices are heard and that election violations are promptly and credibly addressed.

“The situation in Russia is dynamic and no one yet knows where it will lead, but Sunday’s results suggest ‘sovereign democracy’ has run out of gas and Russian citizens are demanding the genuine article. We stand in solidarity with all Russians seeking their rightful role in the governing of their own country.” 

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