This video shows a political activist and a radio reporter entering a room entering a room reportedly at Moscow State University of Transportation. Inside, a number of young men and women appear to be seated filling out forms. When asked what they are doing, none of the men and women respond. Eventually the activist and reporter are forced from the room.
The video was uploaded to YouTube two days ago and has since become hugely important in Russia.
Its creators says that the video shows students at the University working from a database to forge huge numbers of signatures. These signatures are apparently to be used to get Dmitry Mezentsev, a pro-Kremlin politician, onto the ballot for March’s upcoming presidential election.
This illegal method of collecting signatures appears to be becoming the norm in Putin’s Russia — a result of a strict system that requires a huge amount of signatures in an incredibly short period of time.
Journalist Masha Gessen, writing for the New York Times, puts it as:
“In other words, the system is so restrictive that virtually the only way to get on the ballot is to “draw up signatures,” as the young people in the video appear to be doing, and have them rubber-stamped by election officials.”
Mezentsev has told Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy that the event was just “training”, though the activists that filmed the video have given various explanations for why this cannot be true.
Analysts suspect that while Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win the election, Mezentsev may be being planted as a “back up” candidate for the Kremlin, the Guardian reports.