Federation Council reviews evidence of foreign interference in Moscow City Duma elections

The expanded session of the working group of the Ad Hoc Commission on Protecting State Sovereignty was chaired by Andrei Klimov.

The working group of the Ad Hoc Commission on Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Interference in the Domestic Affairs of the Russian Federation held an expanded session chaired by Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The session was attended by members of the Federation Council, representatives of the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Civic Chamber and experts affiliated with the Commission.

The participants discussed evidence of foreign interference in Russia’s exclusively domestic affairs, specifically the elections to the Moscow City Duma.

Andrei Klimov noted that at its session on 30 May 2019, the commission reviewed the intention of the US and its partners to interfere in the Russian political system on election day, 8 September 2019. “At that time, we made the determination that the US and its foreign supporters will try to use the latest elections in this country to destabilise the Russian political system with the assistance of their stooges. Back then, we mentioned the elections to the Moscow City Duma as a potential target of interference.”

“Regrettably, our warning about expected provocations to be staged with foreign support was accurate,” Senator Klimov said, adding that there were signs of foreign interference in the protests over the registration of nominees to the Moscow City Duma, including biased coverage of the events in Moscow by a number of foreign media outlets, including state-owned media.

CEC Member Anton Lopatin emphasised that the commission is closely following compliance with election law and is doing everything to curb all possible violations of the law during the election campaign. “By tradition, those who want to discredit the entire election process in this country are becoming more active ahead of election day” he said.

Head of the Foreign Ministry department of information problems Ilya Timokhov spoke about the biased coverage of events in Russia by the Western media and discrimination against Russian media in the West.

 President of the Board of the Peacemaker Alliance and member of the Civic Chamber Mikhail Anichkin criticised the organisers of unauthorised rallies as irresponsible: “They are subjecting ordinary citizens to danger – Moscow residents and guests who like walking with small children in the centre of Moscow on their days off.”

“Protesters cite Article 31 of the Constitution, which gives them the right to hold rallies and assemblies. However, they forget that the same article reads that rallies should be held peacefully,” he said. Mr Anichkin believes it is necessary to codify in law rules of conduct at such rallies and to study international experience.

According to member of the Board of the Public Control National Committee and member of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy Alexander Mikhailov, the US Ambassador to the Russian Federation recently resigned because he lost the confidence of the US administration. “First, criminal proceedings have been instituted against the Anti-Corruption Fund. Today, we understand where this money comes from, how it arrived and was legalised in bank accounts. The second obvious point is the failure of the protest. We realise that such protests never escape our opponents’ notice. The Ambassador has nothing to do here anymore,” he said.

Head of the legal department of the Prosecutor-General's Office Anton Zavalunov noted that during the election campaign and elections as such it is necessary to react promptly to the voting rights violations, using all measures at the disposal of the office to curb actions of the organisers of illegal and unsanctioned public events. “Prosecutorial oversight should include a focus on countering the destructive influence of malign foreign NGOs on the elections and illegal agitation on the internet,” he said.

 First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building Lyudmila Bokova suggested resuming the discussion of the concept of “interference by a foreign state” that is not defined in Russian legislation. “Probably, it also makes sense to determine by law venues of political actions and rallies. It is necessary to elaborate a draft law that would define such venues. The legislation should not violate constitutional provisions on the freedom of assembly or the rights of ordinary citizens who do not take part in such actions but are still in the streets of the city,” she said.

First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov noted that the recent events in Moscow reminded him of what was happening in Moscow in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Our so-called Western partners urged people to disobey and take decisive action against the regime as Gorbachev’s perestroika sputtered and the country grew weaker,” Dzhabarov said. The Senator noted that the Agora International Human Rights Group that provides legal support to protestors who were detained receives foreign funding and is involved in political activities.

First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Sergei Kislyak noted that Russia’s alleged interference in the US presidential election is still discussed in the US. “Many politicians understand that there is no factual basis for this hysteria but relations with Russia are being held hostage to domestic politics. At the same time, the Americans continue doing what they have always done – interfering in the internal affairs of other countries – and Russia is one of the main targets in this respect,” he said. 

The press release on the outcome of the meeting states that the members of the working group strongly condemn foreign interference in the sovereign affairs of the Russian Federation that is aimed, among other things, at shaking the foundations of Russia’s electoral sovereignty.

The working group suggested that the Ad Hoc Commission invite to its meeting in early September 2019 heads of the diplomatic missions of foreign states, on the territory of which (or from the territory of which) actions were taken that are considered by the Commission interference in Russia’s internal affairs.

Senators also intend to draft additional proposals to improve Russian legislation on protecting state sovereignty and preventing interference in Russia’s internal affairs.

The Commission will prepare a report on the results of the elections on 8 September 2019.