On March 5, Andrey Klimov, chairman of the Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, delivered a report on what he claimed were attempts by the United States to interfere in Russia’s upcoming presidential election.
In an interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency, Klimov claimed that the U.S. is using its “state propaganda organs” to indoctrinate people both inside and outside Russia with the idea that without the participation in the election of “certain players” – an apparent reference to opposition blogger Alexey Navlany, who was banned from running -- voter turnout cannot possibly be more than 45 percent, and that if turnout is shown to be higher, the election is illegitimate. He specifically cited Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty), the Russian language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded by the U.S. Congress.
There is no evidence that Radio Svoboda or U.S. government-funded Voice of America made such a specific claim in its coverage of the Russian presidential election. RFE/RL has pointed out that the Kremlin is determined to achieve high turnout, but this is a well-established fact that has been reported by many outlets.
One recent Radio Svoboda story detailed the authorities’ efforts to ensure voter turnout, but did not include anything resembling Klimov’s claims. President Putin, himself, expressed concern about low voter turnout, calling the situation “tough and difficult” following a record lower percentage of voter turnout in 2016’s State Duma elections.
Moreover, Radio Svoboda has provided balanced coverage on Russia affairs, frequently featuring commentators like Sergei Markov, a professor of political science at Moscow’s State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and an outspoken Putin supporter.
Klimov did not point to any specific story or cite any sources to support his claim. Thus, his claim about a concerted campaign by Radio Svoboda or other U.S. state media to declare the upcoming Russian presidential elections illegitimate based on turnout appears to be unfounded.