Russian election monitor and human right activist, Roman Udot, was arrested by the Russian police in Moscow on 20 May. Udot is facing a criminal charge related to a provocation conducted by the state-controlled TV-station NTV targeting Udot and several other GOLOS-experts ahead of the disputed 2018 presidential elections in Russia.
“We suspect that the charges brought against Udot is intended to stop his activities as a human rights activist and for his work on the exposure of election fraud practices”, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Conflict one year-ago
According to GOLOS, the reason for the arrest was that a NTV reporter, a state-run TV-station, had accused him of threatening to kill her. The accusation may date back to a conflict between the two that took place in March 2018. The reporter had filmed Udot at Sheremetyevo Airport without permission, and he had taken her mobile phone from her and given it to the police.
The reporter, in turn, reported ‘theft of her device’ to the police, which decided to detain Udot on suspicion of stealing the journalist’s mobile phone. He was, however, soon released, but now a criminal case of ‘threat of homicide’ has been opened against him.
According to his lawyer, Udot is currently being held arrested without legal basis.
“For the police to arrest a person they must have compelling evidence that he has violated the law or intends to do so. Therefore, the police should release him”, says Engesland.
Documented election fraud
Udot, which is a board member of GOLOS, has documented fraud during numerous elections in Russia and has authored several reports on election related issues to international organizations such as the OSCE. He is a well-respected expert on election related issues and has never been involved in any violence.
The arrest comes after long-time-pressure on Udot and his family. Several reporters have been following Udot, harassing him and interfering with his family life. Due to this hostile environment he had to flee from Russia for a period.
“Udot has peacefully promoted the strengthening of institutions which are crucial for Russia’s democratic developments. We call on the international community to protest his detention”, says Engesland.
In 2012, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee awarded its Andrei Sakharov prize to GOLOS for its high-quality work of monitoring elections, promoting civil and political rights and mobilising thousands of Russians for democracy.
GOLOS was the first Russian human rights organisation to be labelled as a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities, and the organization has been subject to extensive slander by state TV during recent years.