Vancouver votes bound for Russia

More than 100 Russian citizens living locally cast ballots in presidential election

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



Did you know?

According to a Russian news outlet, 369 polling stations were set up in more than 140 countries for people who voted abroad on Russian election day in December.

Russia measures 6.5 million square miles, 1.8 times the size of the U.S.

Russia has about 142.9 million people. The Census Bureau says the U.S. population is about 311.6 million.

Russia declared its independence in August 1991. The dissolution of the USSR left 15 republics.

AM-RU International Association

Tina Esch said the AM-RU International Association is helping stage an Aug. 4 event in Esther Short Park commemorating the 75th anniversary of the flight of Valery Chkalov flight, who landed at Pearson Field.

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There was an election in Vancouver on Sunday, but nobody was casting ballots for Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

The voting, however, had worldwide implications.

Citizens from around the metropolitan area 119 in all cast ballots at the Vancouver Community Library for the next president of Russia.

“I supported (Mikhail) Prokhorov but I am absolutely OK with our current prime minister (Vladimir Putin),” said Dmitry Luk, 28, who lives in Beaverton, Ore. He came to the U.S. five years ago for an electrical engineering job with Intel.

Prokhorov is the billionaire owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Asked why some young people in Russia object to Putin, Luk replied, “They don’t like Putin but they don’t like anybody. … If you disagree with something, you have to propose stuff.”

“It’s 65 percent for Putin,” said Vancouver’s Andrey Dolbinin about 2:45 Sunday afternoon of results.

Later, the Associated Press reported that Putin “scored a decisive victory in Russia’s presidential election Sunday to return to the Kremlin and extend his hold on power for six more years.”

“I just vote for Putin,” Dolbinin said. “Putin already showed his political work.”

Dolbinin is principal of the Slavic Christian Academy in Vancouver. The bilingual school has 85 students in preschool through eighth grade.

Dolbinin called the other four running “good candidates, but not right now.”

He was in the library’s Klickitat Room with his wife, Olga, his daughter, Irina, 15, who is on the Heritage High School gymnastics team, and his 12-year-old son Maksim, who is a champion swimmer. Maksim attends his father’s school.

Olga declined to say who she supported but said she favored a candidate who would make Russia better for its people. The couple came here in 1997. Only Maksim, who was born in the U.S., is an American citizen.

If she could vote, Irina said it would probably be for “Putin because he was a president before. The other ones need to get ready. They need time to, like, figure out what Russia is and how to rule.”

Andrey said there are 150,000 Russian-speaking people in the Portland-Vancouver area.

Administering voting was Evgeny Y. Uspenskiy, head of protocol for the Consulate General of Russia, based in Seattle. He said he is living in Seattle for four years and then will return to Moscow.

To vote, Uspenskiy said, “We just need the proof of Russian citizenship.” He said he did not ask anyone about U.S. citizenship. He noted voters Sunday ranged in age from 18 (the legal age to begin voting in Russia) to 92.

Often, exchanges were in Russian as voting happened.

Uspenskiy said the only two polling places for Washington and Oregon were Seattle and Vancouver.

And he said the ballot box would be sealed and taken to Seattle, where ballots would be counted Sunday night and then sent to Moscow.

Also on hand to help was Vancouver’s Tina Esch. She is president of the AM-RU International Association that promotes cultural exchanges between Russia and the U.S.

“We’re excited (by Sunday’s vote),” she said, noting that in December only 52 Russians showed up to vote in a parliamentary election.

After leaving the voting booth, Alexey Koposov, 33, of Vancouver said, “I wanted any candidate who was not Putin.” He said he is a scientist for a local high-tech company and that he arrived in the U.S. 12 years ago.

“He (Putin) drives the country back to the Soviet time,” Koposov said.

Asked about his homeland, Luk, the Intel engineer, said, “I miss my friends, my parents.”

But he added, “I met my wife here and I have two kids here.” While he and his wife, who originally is from Kazakhstan, are Russian citizens residing in America, his two children, born here, are U.S. citizens.

As if talking to his students, Dolbinin, the principal, said he has written two books about life and success and noted, “You have to vote to be a good citizen.”