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Voting for Russia
About 500 Russian-born Philadelphians, many of them Jews, turned out March 3 to cast their ballots at the Klein JCC in the Russian presidential elections.
The voting was conducted through a special arrangement with the Russian Consulate in Manhattan.
According to Andre Krug, president and CEO of the Klein, it's not the first time native-born Russians were able to vote there in Russian elections, but it's the first time they were able to do so in a presidential election.
Nineteen polling stations were set up around the country at five Russian consulates, plus 14 mobile sites, such as the one at Klein, said Maxim Vladimirov of the consulate in New York.
Individuals needed to have a Russian passport in order to vote, he said. "Even if someone were visiting relatives here and wanted to vote," he said, "they could do it at the sites. They just needed to have a passport."
The tally of foreign votes was sent to Russia, he said, and were included in the overall count.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won, as expected, though there have been accusations of flaws in the electoral process. Putin had given up the presidency four years ago due to term limits, but became prime minister then. His efforts have been met with mass demonstrations in opposition to his candidacy and his election to the top spot on Sunday.
Voters at the Klein were mostly anti-Putin, said several observers. Victoria Faykin, a Klein JCC vice president who oversees Russian programming and was present for some of the voting, said most of those who showed up said they would vote for the opposition candidate, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who came in third in the national election with only 8 percent of the vote.
Typical of the anti-Putin sentiment at Klein was Boris Vershovsk, 86, a native of St. Petersburg, who called Putin "a criminal." A few days before he cast his vote, he said he would probably vote for Prokhorov. "In any case, not Putin, never ...," he added, his voice trailing off.
According to Faykin and other observers, the demeanor of the room at the Klein was "very orderly, quiet, not a lot of chatter."
Voters were registered in longhand and then given a paper ballot, which was eventually placed in a box.
Faykin said that the majority of the voters were 60 years old and up, but there had been a flurry of younger voters -- "people with children and some in their 20s" -- in the afternoon.
She said that, old or young, they all appeared to have a sense of purpose.
"I've been here since 1997," she said. "I'm an American. I care about what happens in the American elections. This does not interest me. But even my mother voted, and told me she thought it was important."