Ex-KGB blamed for Russia poll attacks

2011-12-05 21:23

Moscow - Russia's independent election monitor Golos said Monday it was ready to unite with other groups for a public investigation into attacks on its operations that it blamed on the FSB security service.

Golos, a niche organisation that has monitored and exposed violations in Russian polls for the past 11 years, was the subject of unprecedented pressure in the run-up to Sunday's parliamentary polls.

"I don't have a computer, no telephone, no Skype, everything has been blocked," said Golos director Liliya Shibanova. The organisation's websites were still inaccessible Monday due to the cyber attack that started Saturday night.

Hackers broke into the e-mail of her deputy Grigory Melkonyants, accessing personal information of all its observers, she said.

"We believe there will be continuing repressions," she said. "I am sure it's the FSB," Shibanova added.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) is the successor organisation - responsible for internal security and intelligence - to the feared Soviet-era KGB.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB agent whose United Russia party won the elections with a reduced majority, headed the FSB under president Boris Yeltsin.

The Golos chief says her suspicions were confirmed when customs officers stopped her after landing in a Moscow airport on Saturday, and confiscated her computer on the pretext that it has illegal software.

"I saw the confused faces of customs officials who had to constantly run around the corner for phone consultations... These people understood what is happening even less than me," she said.


At a press conference in Moscow, Golos said the pressure on non-governmental organisations during this year's elections are the only major difference with previous elections.

"There was systematic work to crash all platforms hosting information about violations," said Golos head of analysis Alexander Kynev.

The most frequent violations involved removing monitors and journalists from polling stations, organising multiple voting, fraudulent use of absentee ballots and incorrect vote count, Golos said.

Besides the Golos websites chronicling violations, attacks also targeted a grassroots anti-fraud group, which mobilised volunteers to stop groups of people being bused around for multiple voting.

Media websites of radio station Moscow Echo, Slon.Ru, daily Kommersant, and magazines New Times and Bolshoi Gorod were only some crashed by massive attacks. Most were back up on Monday.

Golos now wants to join forces with other people and organisations that have been harassed by the powerful FSB agency.

"If everyone is ready to participate in such a process, with public tribunals and public hearings into each fact, and make this process public, then there is reason to take on an organisation such as the FSB," she said.

For Golos to fight with the FSB alone is "pointless", she said. "There starts to be no time to do my job."