Ex-mayoral opposition candidate Oleg Shein is continuing his 29-day hunger strike protesting against local mayoral election results. Held the same day as presidential elections, they were allegedly no less fraudulent. United Russia’s candidate Mikhail Stolyarov won 60 per cent of the vote and Shein less than 30.
Shein, member of political party “A Just Russia” and Astrakhan region duma deputy, told Index on Censorship he refused to stop the strike despite concerns over his health from doctors’ and human rights activists’, until new mayoral elections are held. “Astrakhan has become the capital of fraud”, said Shein, claiming he and his supporters will prove their allegations in court through providing it with video recordings of election law violations.
Shein told Index that he and three of his supporters have been on hunger strike for a month, nine other people have joined them in solidarity and have been on hunger strike for more than ten days, and another ten people joined the strike a couple of days ago.
In his annual address to the State Duma, Vladimir Putin said he didn’t understand why Shein was choosing hunger strike, rather than appealing to the courts. Just Russia deputies walked out, considering the remark cynical and insulting.
As Shein explained to Index, “only a silly man comes to court without proof”, which, in this case is a number of video recordings from Astrakhan’s election committees. According to Russian law, all recordings made in local election committees on election day must be provided to those who request them by the Central Election Committee. Shein only obtained some of the recordings this week — almost a month after his request and the start of the hunger strike, hence why he didn’t appeal to the court before. Sergei Mironov, leader of A Just Russia has said that the corruption and bias in Russian courts was another reason for Shein to take alternative action.
The Central Election Committee authorities, as well as Astrakhan prosecutor, said Oleg Shein’s hunger strike and his allegations are insufficient reason to hold re-elections in Astrakhan. Yesterday, the Committee’s head Vladimir Churov agreed to look into the issue and watch the video recordings together with Shein. United Russia deputies both in the State Duma and Astrakhan have condemned Shein’s hunger strike, describing it as illegitimate and accusing him of extremism. Astrakhan is flooded with hundreds of policemen, who are preventing people from forming protest camps near Shein’s headquarters.
United Russia seems to be particularly angered by the fact that every day tens of Russian citizens flock to Astrakhan in support of Shein. His supporters in Astrakhan already include Russian opposition leaders such as Alexei Navalny, Ilya Ponomarev, Dmitry Gudkov and Ilya Yashin, who are expected to be joined by popular writer Dmitry Bykov and TV host Ksenia Sobchak.
This Saturday, the opposition will hold a rally for fair elections in Astrakhan. It is expected to be the biggest opposition event since the mass protest rallies in Moscow in February.