Hackers shut down an observer web site during Russian parliamentary elections

Many of those polled said they expected a government party victory, as voting began for Russian parliamentary elections on Sunday.

As a flurries turned to drizzle outside a central Moscow school, Elina Kharshor said that she and her mother voted for an opposition party, Just Russia.

She said she voted to strengthen the opposition, hoping there would a force to stand up to the Kremlin.

Standing nearby under the gray skies, Gregory Plokhotnikov, a Just Russia parliamentary candidate, said election observers for his party had been kicked out of several polling stations around Moscow.

The websites of Echo Moskvi, the nation’s leading independent radio station, and Golos, the nation’s lone independent observer group were disabled by hackers starting early Sunday.

Golos director Lilia Shibanova was detained for 12 hours on Saturday at Moscow’s Sheremeyetevo Airport by customs agents who seized her computer.

Police barred many Golos poll watchers from observing the voting around the nation, she told reporters on Sunday.

Before the Internet site went down, she said, Golos had received more than 5,500 allegations of violations of the election law – all received before voting started. Then a barrage of telephone calls had rendered their hot-line telephone useless while hacker attacks knocked down the Golos site, she said.

At a polling station in Elektrozavodskaya, a working class neighborhood in eastern Moscow, representatives of five opposition parties watched the voting as voters trickled in and out. In the warm, well-lit lobby, one woman sold hot dogs, juice and open faced sandwiches. Nearby, elderly voters clustered around a second table where low-cost Christmas ornaments and gifts were for sale.

Voting station director Natalia Cherneshova says voting was proceeding normally. She says the polls would stay open for people who were in line at the closing time.

Exit polls and preliminary results are not to be made public until polling ends in all nine of Russia’s time zones including Kaliningrad, a part of Russia sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

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