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Hot Off the Press: Extra Ballots
By Yevgenia Borisova Staff Writer

Not all were as sympathetically ready as the OSCE leadership to write off violations during the March 26 vote as necessary "to expedite the [cumbersome] process" of running a democracy. Some Russian observers, as the OSCE itself noted, reported being kicked out of their precincts, or otherwise denied access to the vote count. And in one bizarre and extreme case in Tatarstan, those who cited evidence of fraud provoked a federal investigation - not into the fraud, but into who leaked the news of it.

This came about when Communist Party officials claimed days before the vote that they uncovered evidence that hundreds of thousands of additional duplicate ballots had been printed at the Kazan Polygraph-Printing Combine on Ulitsa Baumana in Kazan.

"We know it is 100 percent true, but we cannot reveal our sources," said Eduard Gataullin, a Communist Party activist in Kazan. "They agreed to be witnesses if a criminal case were to be opened."

Gataullin said people at the printing press had notified him on March 20, six days before the vote, that duplicate ballots were being printed. Gataullin investigated, and then called the law enforcement authorities.

"The next day, March 21, an officer from Tatarstan's FSB came to our office and interviewed me," Gataullin said. "But strangely enough his questions concerned the name of our source [in the printing house] rather than the additional ballots."

"We actually thought that the FSB would instantly check through the rooms and papers at the presses and find out what is up there," he continued. Instead, Gataullin said, his sources tell him workers involved with printing the ballots were gathered by local law enforcement and warned to keep quiet about their activities.

Over the next 10 days, Gataullin's formal complaint followed a familiar trail into the dustbin. It was first sent to Alexander Saly, the Communist Duma deputy who heads parliament's commission that oversees elections.

Saly forwarded the complaint to the Prosecutor General's Office. From there it was forwarded to the Tatarstan prosecutor's office, and from there further down the food chain to prosecutors with the city of Kazan. On March 31 came the official ruling of Kazan's prosecutor, Flyur Bagautdinov: "The claims of your appeal have not been proved."

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