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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia-Haters Strike at State With Really Long Article

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A year ago this weekend, The Moscow Times published an 8-page report about vote fraud in the March 2000 presidential election. (It's at www.themoscowtimes.com/election_fraud.html).

After months of digging, reporter Yevgenia Borisova and others turned up evidence that stolen votes were decisive in Vladimir Putin's 2.2-million-vote, 52.94-percent margin of victory.

We tried to be scrupulously fair in sharing our findings. We reported, for example, that we did not know whether the fraud we found was orchestrated by the Kremlin, or by governors acting separately.

We reported that our months of looking into the election left us certain Putin was still the man of the hour, and with or without fraud would have crushed Communist Gennady Zyuganov in a run-off.

After our report came out, it was attacked by Russian media and European election observers, ignored by the government, and enjoyed a day of sympathetic treatment by some international media.

And that was it -- until a few months ago, when the Central Election Commission finally responded. Its critique (posted at www.fci.ru/express_info/opr.htm) is simply too ridiculous to let slide.

It opens like this: "A half-year after the elections, immediately after the tragic events involving the sinking of the Kursk submarine," reports emerged of electoral fraud.

The Kursk?

Eight pages later it concludes: "It's obvious these publications [about electoral fraud], appearing immediately after the tragic events involving the sinking of the Kursk submarine, are part of a coordinated information action by Russia's ill-wishers aimed at discrediting the Russian state and its leadership."

So the evil Russia-haters saw in the sinking of the Kursk a moment of national weakness -- the state on its knees -- and they struck! With ... a really long newspaper article!

Doesn't quite work, does it? But as arguments go, it's certainly a masterful matryoshka of hypocrisy within cynicism. Imagine: The person(s) behind this critique are toying with the deaths of 118 sailors -- by accusing their critics of toying with that same tragedy. So they know it's low and disgusting to trade upon such a tragedy -- or at least they know it's supposed to be disgusting -- but they still do it.

In between insinuating we sank the Kursk, the CEC offers a lot of absurdity and mumbo-jumbo. For those with the appetite for it, I've gone through its critique in more detail on our web site. (click here to see this piece)

Doing so took me back to the Kafkaesque days of March 2000, when CEC chief Alexander Veshnyakov insisted the"none of the above" ballot option was a candidate, so advocating a "none of the above" vote meant breaking the law -- unless one's placards and leaflets were paid for by Mr. None of the Above's campaign bank account. Which, of course, did not exist.

It also brought back memories of days spent following the American elections from Moscow -- when Veshnyakov, fresh from observing those elections, droned on about the now-proven superiority of Russian electoral practice.

(In America, when the election is stolen, it's too sloppily public?) That Veshnyakov had done his elections-day observing in Florida, of all places, remains beyond parody.

Our original report offered evidence that days after the vote, authorities burned bags-full of ballots for Zyuganov. We reported we were in possession of the ashes of still-recognizable ballots -- and waited for the authorities to call. They never did.

Matt Bivens, a former editor of The Moscow Times, is a Washington-based fellow of The Nation Institute [www.thenation.com].