Russia sets work punishment for woman who spoiled election ballots

(Reuters) - A Russian court sentenced a woman to one year and 8 months of "correctional work" on Monday for pouring green dye on ballots cast in the presidential election in March, a regional branch of the state Investigative Committee said.

President Vladimir Putin won a record post-Soviet landslide in elections held on March 15-17, clinching nearly 88% of the vote and an unprecedented fifth term. Western countries and Russian independent vote monitors condemned the election as neither free nor fair, accusations the Kremlin rejected.

Allies of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who had died the month before the elections in an Arctic prison, urged Russians to protest by either spoiling their ballots or casting their vote for any candidate but Putin.

Russia's electoral chief called those who tried to disrupt voting "scumbags" and vowed they would face harsh prison sentences. Voting authorities logged scattered incidents of protests throughout the three-day vote, including people pouring green dye into ballot boxes to damage voting slips.

On Monday, a 47-year-old woman in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region was found guilty of obstructing the work of electoral commissions by attempting to ruin ballots with green dye.

The Investigative Committee said the woman, whom it did not name, had gone to a polling station in the town of Kuragino on the first day of the election and, acting at the behest of "unidentified persons", attempted to pour the liquid into a ballot box.

Her actions created "significant difficulties" for authorities, the Committee said, and she was arrested at the scene.

It was not clear what form of work she would have to carry out. Under Russian law, convicted people may be sentenced to correctional labour as an alternative to prison.

This can take place at their usual workplace, if they have one, or otherwise at a workplace designated by local authorities, with up to 20% percent of the person's earnings being withheld and paid to the state.

(Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)