In a bizarre series of events, Putin’s administration reportedly tried to rig a vote for a zoo mascot after allies of his opponent Navalny backed Batu the orangutan for the top spot
Image: SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin’s administration has made a strange attempt to rig a vote for a zoo mascot to prevent a rival-backed orangutan from winning, it was reported.
Novosibirsk Zoo, in Russia’s third-largest city, announced a public vote to select its mascot after the area was named the country’s ‘New Year Capital’ this year.
In the poll the city was given the choice between Aisha the cat, Batu the orangutan, Max the Amur tiger, Sayan the snow leopard and Shilka the polar bear cub.
But what started as an innocent vote, quickly turned into a political battle that the Kremlin itself waded into.
Sergei Boyko, the now exiled former Novosirbirsk coordinator for jailed Putin opposition Alexei Navalny, threw his backing behind Batu the resident orangutan to be chosen for the job.
In a YouTube broadcast last month, he said: “Against the backdrop of everything going on in Novosibirsk, I think that the orangutan is absolutely the best option. Therefore, I urge you to support the orangutan.”
The surprise addition to the ballot quickly garnered more and more support as a number of Navalny supporters online, as well as other journalists, and bloggers rallied behind him.
Independent city council member Igor Ukraintsev came out in support of the orangutan .
Popular blogger Ilya Varlamov even dubbed the orange ape “the candidate of the people.”
However, as Batu’s popularity skyrocketed, local media Tayga.info claim that Putin’s administration took an interest in the vote.
They report that the Kremlin, and Putin, wanted the orangutan to lose and claimed that Putin’s Siberian representative sent an urgent request to the Novosibirsk mayor’s office to try and stop Batu winning.
After this, Shilka the polar club edged into the lead, then Sayan the snow leopard suddenly received 25,000 votes in only four hours, despite the polling site receiving only 1,851 unique visitors.
According to The Insider these votes were fraudulent.
Local artist Artyom Loskutov, who has long-documented political demonstrations in Russia, said: “The orangutan clearly won. Apparently, the authorities could not come to terms with this victory. Why — well, one can only speculate.”
In the end, the zoo decided to scrap the vote the day before it was due to close, saying it would choose the mascot itself.
At the time the vote was shutdown, Batu had 39.4% of the votes, meaning the orangutan won the vote, but it is unknown whether it will be selected.
Writing on its website, the zoo said: “We hoped for sincere interest and positive attitude towards our idea.
“Unfortunately, today we see that our animals have become participants in a farce that people have organized.
“The poll is used for purposes far from choosing a symbol of the festive Novosibirsk – a number of bloggers, deputies, journalists (including those who have nothing to do with our city) called on their audience to give the poll for the talisman a political coloring.
“The negative nature of what is happening towards the end is beyond doubt.
“The Novosibirsk zoo is not interested in such attention to our pets, we do not like the creation of offensive memes, so we ask you to stop the survey and do not take into account its results.
“We have sent an official letter to the Deputy Mayor, Head of the Department of Sports Culture and Youth Policy Anna Vasilievna Tereshkova! And we already got support!
“Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey without any ulterior motives. Max, Shilka and Aisha, Batu and Sayan are always waiting for you. Of course, they are animals, but to make them an instrument of their ambitions, in our opinion, is wrong.”