Foreign “experts” who watched the voting on the Constitution were brought in on a charter flight. Who paid for their visit is unknown Main from the investigation of “Novaya Gazeta”

Foreigners, who in the summer of 2020 acted as “international experts” who evaluated the voting on amendments to the Russian Constitution, were brought to Moscow on a charter flight in an organized manner and sent back in the same orderly manner. This is stated in the investigation by Novaya Gazeta and the Dossier Center. The sources of funding for the stay of the “experts” in Russia are unknown.

Events with the participation of international representatives were organized by the Public Chamber – the CEC could not invite observers from abroad, since “popular vote” under the Constitution did not fall under the definition of a referendum or elections and was not regulated by laws on referendum or elections. The presence of foreigners at polling stations was covered on federal TV channels, in interviews they “expressed a unanimous opinion: everything went well, at a high level, without violations, and if with violations, then with minor ones, which had no effect on the will of the voters and did not have any could, ”writes Novaya Gazeta.

The journalists asked the Public Chamber to name the names of the “experts” who had visited Russia and to tell how this list was compiled. In response to an inquiry from Novaya Gazeta, the Public Chamber reported that “proposals for the participation of foreign guests <…> came from directly interested parties, as well as from various public associations and non-profit organizations.” Which ones are unknown. The Public Chamber also refused to name the invitees, stating that “the experts publicly and openly interacted with all the media representatives who addressed them, their names and surnames were quoted in the press.”

One of the “experts” whose name was actually quoted in the press was MEP Thierry Mariani from the French far-right “National Association”. In accordance with the rules of the European Parliament, he must report on the events attended, which were paid for by a third party. Journalists studied his report and found there a flight number from Moscow to Minsk dated July 3, 2020 (voting on amendments to the Constitution ended on July 1). It was a charter from Ural Airlines. The Dossier Center received a list of its passengers – only about 60 people.

Judging by this list, the largest delegation voted in Russia was the delegation from France – 16 people. They all represented Marine Le Pen’s National Association. Among the guests was her personal assistant, Marie Griset. Six people were from Serbia, five from Afghanistan, three from Germany (also representatives of the extreme right). Other countries were represented by one or two “experts”.

The plans for the “experts” to travel to the polling stations, as Novaya Gazeta found out, were minutely scheduled in advance and sent out along with invitations even before their arrival, which contradicts the very essence of the observation mission. “The effectiveness of the ‘expert assessment’ of the voting procedure at pre-prepared polling stations at a predetermined time is predictable,” the newspaper notes.

Who paid for the stay of foreign representatives in Russia remains unclear. In the reporting documents of the European MPs, the Public Chamber is indicated as the party paying the costs. At the same time, its representative Maxim Grigoriev said that “the issue of financing the arrival of experts in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation was not discussed.” 

The Russian Foreign Ministry told reporters that they did not have information about the financing of the trip of the “experts” and how the list was drawn up. The head of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky, who spoke to the invited foreigners, did not answer the question about paying their expenses either. The foreign “experts” themselves ignored the requests of Novaya Gazeta. 

(C)MEDUZA 2021

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