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polar bears
© RIA Novosti. Valeriy Melnikov

Four voters, 15 polar bears turn out for early voting on Bely Island

Pre-poll voting was held for the four workers of a meteorological station on Bely Island in the Kara Sea, TASS news agency reports. It took election officials nearly 24 hours to reach the station, only to be surprised by polar bears that turned up after they landed. There are about 15 bears on Bely Island, the agency reports.

"All people, even residents of the most remote areas of the Yamal peninsula, should have an opportunity to vote early. Election officials reached Bely Island by helicopter to let the four workers of the local meteorological station cast their ballots. There are no other people on the island. […]As the voting took place, polar bears approached our helicopter," deputy head of the regional election commission Igor Gorelik said.

"Polar bears are dangerous animals that, unlike brown bears, don't show their aggression. Our officials were not safe, so we tried to scare away the bears with noise, while the island's only dog, Botsman (boatswain), readily came to our assistance and prevented the bears from coming close," he said.

The early voting began in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area on August 28. In 11 days, over 7,000 nomads, reindeer herders and shift workers cast their votes. "This represents 30 percent of the estimated number of early voters. We use boats, all-terrain vehicles and helicopters to get to them. There is a week left, and we'll try to reach all the people in time," Gorelik said.

TASS reports that the election officials spend between five and six hours in flight every day. There are experienced guides onboard each helicopter. Usually they are herders who know the taiga region very well.

On September 18, the residents of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area will cast their votes for the deputies to the State Duma of the seventh convocation and Tyumen Regional Duma.