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Russians Vote For Parliament While Hackers Shut Down Observer Site

Russia's parliamentary voting took place Sunday under tight controls as police temporarily detained several journalists in Moscow and hackers knocked off line the website of Golos, the long independent monitoring group, December 4, 2011.

Russians voted in parliamentary elections Sunday, with many voters saying they expected a government party victory.

As a light snow turned to rain 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.

Starting early Sunday, hacker attacks knocked out the websites of Echo Moskvi, the nation’s leading independent radio station, and Golos, the nation’s lone independent observer group.

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

On Sunday, she told VOA that police barred many Golos poll watchers from observing the voting around the nation.

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

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.

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