ARKHANGELSK, March 12. /TASS/. Early voting at the Russian presidential election was organized at the northernmost polling station, which is on the Alexandra Land of the Franz-Josef Land Archipelago. It is for the first time that a polling station is organized there, and the voting is early, as on the election day weather conditions may fail the process.
"The ballots were delivered there by plane, and the election commission’s members could not take a flight there for about two weeks [as weather conditions would not allow], the flight was possible only on the eve of voting," head of the local election commission, Elena Chernysh told TASS.
Alexandra Land is the most western and one of the biggest islands in the archipelago. Russia’s longest polar night ended here in late February. People live on the island year round: here is Russia’s most northern border station, the Northern Fleet’s facility and a base of the Russian Arctic national park.
The park’s two inspectors drove ATVs for eight kilometers to get to the polling station. "The park’s facility is in the Northern Bay, and the polling station - in the island’s center, which is not covered with the permafrost," the park’s environment inspector Denis Mennikov told TASS.
They were driving with rifles on, of course, as Alexandra Land is the home of polar bears, and on the island they organize maternity dens. "Three days ago, we saw a bear in the bay," the inspector said. "We meet them not often lately. But, they may come out, of course!"
On the early voting day, the sky was clear, though the temperature went as low as minus 27. Before going to work on the island, Denis was not sure whether he would be able to vote. He has been there for a few months already. His colleague, Alexander Morev, has arrived in the island only recently, replacing another inspector. So, later on, the inspectors applied to the local election commission to be put on the voting list there.
"Well before leaving for Franz-Josef Land, we learned from the media about the recent changes in the legislation, which allow voting even to those who are far away from their official registration address. And it was only in early February that we learned about how the voting would be organized and about the polling station here. We were very happy to participate in political life of this huge country, while staying in its northernmost areas!" Morev said.
The polling station on the island was open from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening. "On Franz-Josef Land the turnout is 100%: 378 people on the list, and all the 378 have come to vote," the election commission’s representative told TASS.
On that very day, another polling station invited early voters. The station was organized in the Arkhangelsk Region’s one of the most far-away areas - in the Shegmas village. In order to report the process, members of the local election commission had to line up by the only satellite telephone booth which serves several settlements, - right in the open air. "It is minus 28 here now, the sun is bright," the election commission’s representative Viktor Potashev told TASS. "We arrived yesterday, stayed overnight. The voting is organized at the local leisure center."
The village does not have mobile or ground telephone communication, and the locasl can watch only two TV channels. "The first channel is fine, picture on the second is no good, the locals here have satellite TV, as for telephones - yes, only one booth, which is not working always," the election commission’s representative Ivan Lyapunov said.
The commission drove ATVs for a few hours along the river from Vozhgora - this is the only route to the village. "There is a road across the forest, but nobody clears it, and in summer it is useless - by boats only," Viktor Potashev said. From Shegmas, the commission went to the Larkino village, where only two people live. "The total list of voters for today contains 21 names," Potashev said.
"Our district is very big," head of the local election commission Viktor Khohlov told TASS. "In some parts, we have to drive 90km to the voters, in other parts - 30. In summer, all those settlements are across rivers, and now we use ATVs or Buran snow vehicles."
According to Khohlov, out of 335 people on the early-voting list in Leshukonye, 207 have voted. "That is all. The early voting is over here. Now, the rest would be on the day," he said. The district’s list of voters contains about 7,000 names.
The Arkhangelsk Region’s election commission’s head, Andrei Kontiyevsky, told TASS that as of morning on March 12, as many as 1,309 people had participated in the early voting. "In the region’s some districts early voting will continue this week," he said. About 3-4% of the voters may participate in the early election in the region.