A member of the election commission from St. Petersburg claims that she was forcibly removed from the polling station during the counting of ballots at the recent presidential elections


29 March 2024


Olesya Vasilchenko is an attorney and a member of the precinct election commission (the PEC) in St. Petersburg. According to her, on the night of 18 March, two members of the territorial election commission entered the PEC premises, and one of them rudely forced Olesya out to the street at night. Ms. Vasilchenko connects that behavior with violations during the counting, which she tried to record.

At about 2 a.m., 29-year-old Olesya Vasilchenko and the rest of the members of the PEC No. 427 of St. Petersburg began counting the ballots. The PEC was located in Lyceum No. 150. Around that time, two people (a man and a woman) entered the premises and introduced themselves as members of the territorial election commission.

Olesya recalls that the man suddenly grabbed her hand and dragged her to the exit door: «He grabbed me under the shoulder with his left hand and pulled me towards the door. I started to struggle, so he grabbed me and threw me to the floor. I screamed that I was hurt, but he continued to drag me out, while twisting my arms and hitting me against the walls

Ms. Vasilchenko notes that all members of the commission, three observers and a police officer were present in that room during the incident. They saw what was happening, but did not react or intervene. Olesya indicates that during the three voting days, she developed difficult relationships with other members of the PEC, since she reported violations and recorded them on the phone. The day before, it was another attempt to force her out of the polling station.

Olesya recalls that she escaped from the man, ran along the school corridor and asked for help from the guard (an adult woman), but that guard just silently watched what was happening. Ms. Vasilchenko ran out into the street and hid behind parked cars to call the police, ambulance and her relatives.

Subsequently, together with her boyfriend and a friend, Olesya tried to return to the building, but the guard only gave them Olesya’s belongings and did not let them in. An ambulance came for Olesya and took her to the Clinic No. 96, where she was diagnosed with bruises and damage to shoulder ligaments. That same night, Ms. Vasilchenko received a call from the police station of the Kalininskiy district and was asked to lodge a crime report regarding the use of violence.

Olesya filed that crime report with the Investigative Committee of St. Petersburg and the police. She also applied to the human rights lawyers for legal aid, and they have already demanded that the Police Internal Security Department evaluate the actions of the police officer, who (according to Ms. Vasilchenko) did not intervene in the conflict.

The legal analysis by the Crew Against Torture: «The inaction of that female police officer can be regarded as criminal. Depending on her motives (conspiracy with the commission’s members or fear), it can be classified as abuse of authority or negligence. She was obliged to stop any unlawful actions and take measures to detain the perpetrator. As a result, Olesya’s rights were violated twice: being a member of the electoral commission, she was removed from the station, and, being a citizen, she sustained health damage

The lawyers have also requested video recordings from the polling station’s surveillance cameras.

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