Churov Takes Calls From Voters

Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov is not only the country's top election official. Apparently, he's the man to call for anyone who has a problem.

Churov answered around 20 telephone calls and several e-mails from voters at a news conference Wednesday. And while many of them called in to criticize the country's elections, some wanted a helping hand in life.

A Voronezh woman asked Churov to help her get paid for a meat delivery, a Samara woman asked him to look into the burglary of her apartment, and yet another Samara woman asked why certain social benefits for disabled people were abolished.

Churov promised to personally talk to the Voronezh governor about the missing meat payment and that he would find out what happened with the abolished benefits. He told the burglary victim to contact local election officials for assistance and promised to speak with the Samara governor.

Other callers were more interested in elections. Alexander, a Moscow region resident, complained that he received a call from teachers at his daughter's school who ordered him to vote for pro-Kremlin party United Russia or risk her expulsion. Svetlana, from Murmansk, said her friend's employer demanded that employees take absentee ballots for the presidential election and vote as they are told. Churov called such pressure "wrong" and promised to "take care" of the incidents.

One retired Moscow woman suggested that the presidency was being handed to a predetermined successor, Dmitry Medvedev. "The competition is stiffening as the presidential election approaches," Churov said.

Two callers asked why observers from the OSCE's election watchdog had refused to monitor the election. "Well, they just didn't want to, and so they didn't come," Churov said. The watchdog has said Moscow placed restrictions severely hampering its monitors.