This is part of my ongoing observations of routine propaganda about Russia in the Western media.
By propaganda I mean writing things which are either simply not true or which may be loosely connected with some truth) but is presented in such a way as to convey an impression which is itself not true. (By truth I mean saying things which correspond with how things are). In short, the Western media is telling its readers a load of fairy tales about Russia. There are several factors driving this. On factor is deliberate manipulation of compliant journalists by MI6. (I strongly suspect that the Guardian’s Luke Harding who is clearly having some kind of problems is being manipulated by MI6). Another I think is just lazy journalism by career journalists writing what their editors want to hear. To a large extent it is a result of ‘confirmation bias’ or writing in the echo chamber of their own opinions. When they’ve told themselves that Putin is a sinister executioner and the Russian nationalist Navalny is in fact a liberal saint often enough, they end up writing stories to fit this narrative. It is easier than making the effort to find out the truth.
This is an example from AFP (part-owned by the French state) carried by the Guardian. The story is about the recent regional elections in Russia. According to the report Navalny’s supporters have won city council seats in Novosibirsk and Tomsk. Much of the article though is dedicated to explaining that the elections were manipulated.
Boiko said his supporters had recorded dozens of alleged violations, including an attempt to illegally remove observers while a safe containing early votes at one polling station had its seals broken
But Sergei Boiko is one of the Navalny affiliates who is being reported as having won a seat. Why does this claim have any merit? It is a standard of Navalny’s political tactics to claim that the elections are rigged. When Navalny came a far second in the 2013 Moscow elections this is how this was explained,  despite the elections being seen as fair by critics  and the results being in line with opinion polling; (in fact Navalny won more votes not less than predicted in pre-election polling; which is harder to rig than an election).  It is a tactic. But AFP reports the claim as if it is some kind of reliable statement about the conduct of the elections.
The independent election monitor group Golos said it had received a “stream of reports” that observers had been denied their legal rights to view documents and submit complaints, with conflicts sometimes ending in “fisticuffs”.
It had also received reports of ballot stuffing and officials switching ballot papers cast by real voters for ones they had filled in, the group added.
This is the real world and in the real world no one is neutral. Naturally power, which always likes to disguise itself, likes to pretend that it is neutral. For example; Western politicians somehow manage to convince themselves that they act “in accordance with international law” as they attack country after country. “Independent election monitor group” should make anyone suspicious. And indeed it turns out that Голос (‘Voice’) is anything but “independent”.
This is a Russian newspaper article in which the editor of Честный выбор (Honest Election*) makes the same point which we have made above, that all parties always accuse the other of cheating. The author always claims that ‘Voice’ admits to being financed from aboard. This is true. At one point ‘Voice’ was formed into a legal Association. This Association was subsequently recorded as being a “foreign agent” under Russian laws which require foreign-funded bodies which engage in political activity to be listed and to declare this listing in their communications.  This is because the ‘Voice Association’ was funded by USAID – that is by the US government; the same government which openly boasts about wiping Russia off the map. 
So ‘Voice’ is not “independent”. On the contrary it received funding for many years from a power which has an open policy of altering the political setup in Russia.
Credible claims about elections being rigged in Russia are hard to disentangle from a political tactic by Navalny linked parties of always claiming that the elections are rigged. Nonetheless AFP and the Guardian will present a narrative about “independent” monitoring groups declaring that the elections were rigged. It is a false story.
*This Council appears to be a mainstream and officially aligned Council.
- https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2025872 https://www.ntv.ru/novosti/668297/