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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

300 Observers at Chechen Vote

APA family waiting Monday outside the Grozny refugee center at 24 Chaikovskogo.
The respected Moscow Helsinki human rights group said Tuesday that it will send more than 300 observers to Chechnya to prevent fraud at the Oct. 5 presidential election.

Award-winning journalist Anna Politkovskaya warned that dirty games were already going on and that some presidential candidates have received threats.

"There is forgery in elections in all Russian regions, and Chechnya is such a complex region that it would be naive to think everything will go all right there," Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva said at a news conference Tuesday.

"We believe that with our observers we will at least reduce the level of forgery so that a second round takes place," she said.

At least one observer will spend the full day at most of Chechnya's 420 polling stations, and a list of the participants will be ready in three weeks, she said.

The presidential human rights commission has given its blessing to the project, she said.

Moscow has invited international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the vote, but it remains unclear whether they will attend. OSCE observers typically travel between polling stations, spending about 30 minutes at each one.

Fourteen candidates have been registered to run in the election. To win in the first round, a candidate needs to get more than 50 percent of the vote.

The Kremlin's favored candidate, acting Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov, was trailing in the most recent opinion poll released from the region. A Validata survey released at the end of June showed that 61 percent of respondents would not support him.

Allegations are mounting that Kadyrov is unfairly using his administrative resources to ensure his election, Politkovskaya, who covers Chechnya for Novaya Gazeta, told the same news conference.

Politkovskaya said that just Tuesday morning she received a call from representatives of two candidates who complained of procedural problems opening bank accounts for their election funds. According to election rules, candidates can open accounts in Grozny-based Grozselkhozbank and collect up to 30 million rubles.

Politkovskaya also said the two candidates said they were receiving threats from "Kadyrov's team."

"They are in a mad panic. They are terribly afraid," she said. "They told me they have to hide, that their telephones are tapped, that they have to use euphemisms in their conversations.

"They told me that they don't sleep in one place; they have to travel from one place to another. They get threats at the places where they spend nights."

Politkovskaya said local state television is only showing programs that paint Kadyrov in a good light. In one instance, she said, a program recently showed happy refugees from Ingushetia who had returned to Grozny to find nice apartments at a refugee center at 24 Chaikovskogo Ulitsa.

"But there is a different reality that was never reported," she said. "These people were moved to privatized apartments belonging to a garment factory. The apartment owners barricaded themselves inside. Hundreds of refugees spent the night in the street. The next day there were fights ... when people understood that they had been deceived."

She added: "Candidates are not running on a level playing field there. How can we talk about democratic elections in such a situation?"

Buvaisari Arsakhanov, deputy head of the Chechen elections committee, said Tuesday that he has received no complaints from the candidates.

"We had a meeting with all the candidates this morning," he said by telephone from Grozny. "No one said he had any problems. We heard no complaints."

Arsakhanov said the candidates, instead, asked for bodyguards and cellphones, which, he said, would be provided on Aug. 20 to those who collect enough signatures to run.

Politkovskaya said the Chechen elections committee is in Kadyrov's pocket and candidates would never consider complaining to it.

She said candidates could appeal to the Central Elections Commission, which has a delegation visiting the region, but they have no access to the officials.

Commission members "are guarded by security and are located in a guarded area. They cannot make their way to see them. One of the candidates said that to complain he would have to come to Moscow," she said.