MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's top investigative agency has launched a probe regarding videos on Internet that purport to show fraud during the country's presidential election, even though it hasn't taken place yet.
The Investigative Committee said Thursday that it is looking for the authors of the videos, which are dated March 4 — the day of the presidential vote.
Kremlin critics have accused authorities of secretly producing the videos themselves to discredit genuine evidence of what the opposition fears will be a fraud during Sunday's vote.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is all but certain to reclaim the presidency in the election and he already has claimed that the opposition is preparing to fake evidence of vote-rigging to discredit the balloting.
During Russia's parliamentary election in December, authentic videos taken at polling stations by volunteer observers showed vote rigging. Those videos angered the public and helped fuel a series of gigantic anti-Kremlin rallies, the biggest show of discontent since the Soviet collapse 20 years ago.
Despite those rallies, Russian authorities continue to stonewall opposition demands to punish the officials who have been accused of carrying out the vote rigging then.
Last month, the Investigative Committee claimed that many of the videos showing fraud in December also were fake and that they were posted from a server in California. That statement followed Putin's claims that the U.S. has been behind the opposition protests.
Golos, Russia's leading independent election monitoring group, checked the only December video identified by the Investigative Committee as fraudulent and said the investigators doubted its authenticity because they had made a mistake in identifying its location.