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Candidate for City Duma taken away by law enforcement in Russia’s Veliky Novgorod during raids on Golos electoral monitoring group

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Law enforcement officers in Veliky Novgorod forcibly entered the apartment of Ksenia Cherepanova, a member of the regional Yabloko party, and carried out a search. Following the raid, Cherepanova was apprehended and her whereabouts remain unknown, according to a report published by the party's Telegram channel.

Previously, Cherepanova headed a regional branch of the Golos electoral monitoring organization, and was labeled as “affiliated with a foreign agent” in 2021 for her cooperation with the movement.

Searches also took place at the residences of Polina Kostyleva, the Golos coordinator in St. Petersburg, and Vladislav Khodakovsky, a former member of the movement, in Voronezh. In total, law enforcement officers searched the homes of more than 14 individuals, with these raids taking place in eight different regions of Russia.

Russia's Investigative Committee has launched a case against Grigory Melkonyants, the co-chairman of the Golos election observation movement, for allegedly “organizing the activities of an undesirable NGO.” Melkonyants's home was among those subjected to a search.

The criminal case was allegedly initiated because of the movement's cooperation with the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), which was declared “undesirable” by Russia’s Prosecutor General's Office on September 27, 2021.

The Golos Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights, formerly known as the GOLOS Association (“golos” meaning “vote” or “voice” in Russian — translator’s note), was established in Russia in the year 2000 with the aim of safeguarding citizens' electoral rights and fostering the development of civil society.

In early 2012, Russia introduced a law requiring foreign-funded NGOs to label themselves as “foreign agents” in their public communication.

During the same year, GOLOS was honored with the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Despite both Golos and the Helsinki Committee confirming that Golos did not accept the award money, Russia's Justice Ministry used the award in April 2013 to label Golos as the first “foreign agent” under the new law.

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