Ilya Gushchin says the two and a half years he spent in prison for standing up to the Kremlin were a warning from the authorities for ordinary Russians. “It was a threat to the population to quieten down,” Gushchin, 28, told AFP. “For society it showed that the authorities were willing to do whatever was needed to stay in power.” Russia is currently gearing up for parliamentary elections on September 18 that pro-Kremlin parties look set to dominate, and that message seems to have registered. The last time the country voted in legislative polls five years ago, tens of thousands of ordinary citizens took to the streets for mass protests that became the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s domination of the country since he took charge in 2000. This time around there appears to be little chance of a repeat.
Russia’s only major independent pollster, the Levada Centre, has been designated as a “foreign agent”, the Russian Justice Ministry said on Monday, two weeks ahead of nationwide parliamentary elections. “The recognition of the organization as a non-commercial body performing the functions of a foreign agent was established in an unscheduled document check,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement. It did not give a reason for its decision. Levada was not immediately available for comment. Russia’s main pro-Kremlin United Russia party is expected to comfortably win the elections on Sept. 18, which are seen as a dry run for Vladimir Putin’s presidential re-election campaign in 2018.
Online volunteers seeking to help Donald Trump by making phone calls might be signing up for more than they bargained for. To sign up on Trump’s website, potential volunteers must agree to a 2,271-word non-disclosure agreement in which they also promise they won’t compete against or say anything bad about Trump, his company, his family members or products – now and forever. The agreement is a required part of the sign-up process for Trump Red Dialer, an online call system that connects volunteers for the Republican presidential candidate with potential voters. Earlier this year, volunteers for Trump in New York had to sign non-disclosure agreements in person before making phone calls at Trump Tower. But the website requirement is the first indication that online volunteers must also sign the form, even if they’ll never meet a Trump family member, attend a Trump rally, meet a campaign staffer in person or step inside a Trump campaign office.