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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Election Official Fired For Nizhny Vote Scandal

The head of the Nizhny Novgorod regional election committee has been dismissed after he told a local newspaper that the results of the city's highly controversial mayoral elections could have been falsified.

Anatoly Nekrasov lost his job last week after the Monitor newspaper quoted him as saying that officials in local election committees could have rigged the vote by tampering with the automatic vote-counting devices.

"If uninterrupted entering of the information into the State Automatic System 'VYBORY' is provided, no falsification is possible," the newspaper quoted him as saying two weeks ago. "When the entering process stops ... that's where the tricks start."

The process was suspended, Nekrasov said.

The mayoral elections in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia's third-largest city, caused immense controversy and were closely watched in Moscow.

The turmoil began when the March 29 poll was won by local businessman Andrei Klimentyev, who was on trial for embezzling close to $3 million of a $30 million government loan. His victory infuriated the Kremlin, and the local election committee voided the results, citing campaign violations.

After he was convicted in May and sentenced to six years in prison, he was barred from running in the new election in September. He and his campaign team threw their support behind Vladimir Semago, a Communist member of parliament.

But the election was won by the former presidential envoy to the region, Yury Lebedev, who was sacked by the Kremlin after Klimentyev's win. Lebedev won in a second-round vote in October, getting 44 percent of the vote to out poll the former mayor, Dmitry Bednyakov, who garnered 41 percent.

In the newspaper interview, Nekrasov said that when the ballots were counted in March and September, the entering process was interrupted at some polling stations in the city, which made it possible to falsify the count.

"On March 29, the entering was suspended until 4 a.m. in all the districts," he was quoted as saying.

"During the elections on Sept. 27, the count was suspended in the Avtozavodsky, Kanavinsky and Nizhegorodsky districts. We called them asking what was wrong. They said something was out of order."

Nekrasov did not indicate in the interview who, if anyone, attempted to rig the vote, or in whose favor any falsification might have been directed. He could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

The city election committee was in charge of running the mayoral polls and was only receiving organizational assistance from the regional committee, Nekrasov said.

You might be surprised that I came out to talk about it. But I understood that as a lawyer I have to talk about it," he said. "In the March elections, a bad mistake was made, about which I'm not going to speak now. I think I' m not guilty of anything."

Nekrasov's sudden frankness infuriated officials at the city's district election committees, who appealed to members of the regional election committee to dismiss their chairman.

Nine of the regional committee's 14 members voted Wednesday to sack him. Nekrasov, who was elected to the post in the spring, technically remains a member of the committee. His term expires next September.

One member of the regional election committee, Vladimir Okmyansky, said Nekrasov was voted out for reasons other than the allegations he made in the newspaper interview.

"He had numerous arguments with other members of the committee over the results of the special elections in the region," Okmyansky said Tuesday by telephone. He denied that the results of the mayoral election were falsified.

If they were, he said, at least one of the 10 candidates would have filed a protest.

"It's ridiculous, that the chairman of the regional election committee raised this issue, knowing that none of the poll stations reported any violations," Okmyansky said.

Sergei Klimentyev, the brother of the jailed Andrei Klimentyev, said the election results were falsified and pointed the finger at Nekrasov. Sergei Klimentyev managed his brother's and later Semago's campaigns.

"We know that Nekrasov falsified the vote results, we just could not figure out how he was doing it, and that's why we never filed a protest," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"This a big day for Nizhny, this man is the spawn of the devil," he said of Nekrasov. "How far this man must have gone to outrage his own subordinates, who dared to kick him out."

Nekrasov, however, planned to file a protest with the Central Election Committee, the editor of the Monitor said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Central Election Committee officials said they were not ready Tuesday to comment on Nekrasov's dismissal, saying the case needs thorough investigation.