How Much Does It Cost to Run for Russian President?

How to get and what to spend money on if you are a candidate for presidency

Elections are not only an expression of will of Russian citizens, but also an item of expense, both public and private. A candidate can spend no more than 400 million rubles for his or her election campaign. Russiangate looked into the sources of the candidates’ money and what it is spent on.

At the end of December, the Central Election Commission began publishing the first information on incomes to election accounts and how much the presidential candidates spend in the 2018 elections. By January 9, the candidates’ funds received 656.9 million rubles. Of this amount, more than 43 million rubles have already been spent.

The CEC published the latest data on the accounts of 14 potential candidates (Elvira Agurbash, Sergei Baburin, Ekaterina Gordon, Pavel Grudinin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Natalya Lisitsina, Vladimir Mikhailov, Stanislav Polischuk, Vladimir Putin, Ksenia Sobchak, Maxim Suraykin, Boris Titov, Roman Khudyakin, Grigory Yavlinsky) on January 9. The information on the status of the accounts of seven other candidates (Anton Bakov, Oleg Bulayev, Irina Volynets, Irina Gagite, Mikhail Kozlov, Marina Kopenkina, Alexander Chukhlebov) is not yet available.

Of the 15 self-nominees who submitted documents to the CEC, only two of them – Vladimir Putin and deputy of the Kostroma Regional Duma Vladimir Mikhailov – received the right to open an electoral account and begin collecting signatures. Another 19 candidates were nominated by the parties. Financial support for the collection of signatures, which must be submitted to the Central Election Commission by January 31, and the preparation of campaign materials should become the main items of the candidates' expenses. The period of campaigning in the media and election debates will begin on February 17.


– at the expense of a candidate’s personal funds (no more than 10% of the total amount)

– at the expense of a political party that nominated a candidate (not more than 50%)

– donations of individuals and legal entities (one donation from an individual can not constitute more than 1.5% of the whole amount, and from the legal entity – more than 7%)



As of January 9, only Vladimir Putin managed to get the full amount for the electoral fund – he received 400 million rubles, which is the maximum provided by the Russian legislation. Natalya Orlova, the Putin's authorized financial representative, said that donations from individuals and legal entities continue to flow to the candidate's fund, but since these funds exceed the established limit, they have to be returned to senders.

Putin’s fund is formed from the donations from United Russia and foundations associated with the party. The party allocated 28 million rubles – as Putin participated in the elections as a self-nominee, the maximum amount of donation from the party is limited by this amount. So, in the presidential election of 2012, United Russia supported candidate Putin by transferring him 200 million rubles.

Other funds came from regional foundations, for example, the Krasnodar Regional Cooperation Foundation, the Sverdlovsk Regional Cooperation and Development Support Foundation, the People's Projects Foundation, the Foundation for Supporting Future Generations, etc. The largest sums were allocated by the foundations in Moscow, Sverdlovsk and Tatarstan. Another 186 thousand rubles were donated by an individual – candidates are required to report on donations of more than 20 thousand rubles from individuals and over 200 thousand rubles from legal entities.

Orlova said that about 25 payments to Putin’s foundation came from legal entities, among individuals there are “no significant names”. “Payments from individuals are quite diverse – starting from 10 rubles, ending with 30 thousand, 50 thousand rubles,” said the commissioner for finance.

Foundations for supporting regional cooperation and development emerged in 2015-2016. The regional support foundations of United Russia, which previously collected funds from regional sponsors in support of the party, were transformed to such NGOs. As RBC found out, the reason for the transformation was the expansion of the scope of the foundations – in addition to the party, they began supporting other projects of a public and charitable nature. According to the publication, now in Russia, 73 funds of support of regional cooperation and development are registered.

The fact that Vladimir Putin’s campaign  can be financed in this manner transpired at the end of December. The chairmen of the regional foundations reported that the replenishment of Putin's electoral foundation will take place within the framework of the “campaign to increase the electoral activity of Russian citizens.”    

Фонд Путина

Such a scheme was used in presidential elections in 2008 and 2012 – according to a source close to the Presidential Administration, it “minimizes legal and political risks,” since “the foundations are structures understandable to the authorities – their legal and political reliability does not cause any questions.”


Vladimir Putin has already spent just over 21 million rubles from his electoral foundation. According to the reports, 9 million rubles went to the production and distribution of printed and other propaganda materials, another 3.8 million were used to pay for work and services and other expenses during the election campaign.

As of January 13, it transpired that Putin's campaign headquarters had already collected 538,000 signatures in support of the candidate, exceeding the requirement of 300,000 signatures. Nevertheless, the headquarters decided not to stop accepting money, but to print another 20,000 subscription lists for 200,000 signatures at the expense of the candidate's electoral foundation.

“The collection of signatures is not finished... The reason to that is because many people really want to support the nomination of Putin, both by directly signing up themselves, and by participating in their collection of signatures. Therefore, we do not think that stopping collecting money is a right thing to do with respect to these people,” said Andrei Kondrashov, spokesman for Vladimir Putin's headquarters. On January 14, members of United Russia declared that another 200,000 signatures had been collected in support of Vladimir Putin, the total number of signatures exceeded 700,000.


The students of the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University were asked to collect signatures in support of the incumbent president. Activists say that “first-year students received such subscription lists for Putin and demand that students collect these signatures, that this will play an important role in their exam session. They need to collect at least 14 signatures.” In St. Petersburg, even employees of organizations subordinate to the Committee on Youth Policy are required to collect signatures. However, no one is going to pay for it.

Some of the signature collectors are paid for the work: a Saratov resident who collected signatures in one of the shopping centers reported that she has an agreement with Putin's local headquarters, according to which her activity is paid from the election fund. The coordinator of the faction of United Russia in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, Alexander Teterdinko, said that the party would help Putin in collecting signatures. Activists of United Russia and the All-Russian People’s Front, who picket in shopping centers, should receive five thousand rubles for two weeks of work.

Another item of expenditure will be the work of the pre-election headquarters, which will begin to function in the coming days. According to the co-chairman of Putin's HQ, Yelena Shmeleva, no more than 50 people will work at the headquarters. The rent of the Gostiny Dvor building, which houses the headquarters, will cost 6 million rubles.

In the headquarters itself they say that the main expense item will be the coverage of the campaign in the media. In the 2012 elections, the main items of Putin's spending were pre-election campaigning through the TV and radio broadcasting organization (208.9 million rubles), the production and distribution of printed materials (118.3 million rubles), public events (48.9 million), payment for works and services 15.8 million) and other costs associated with the campaign (7.6 million).



On the accounts of other candidates, there is still much less money. The electoral account of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who is running from the LDPR party, has been half formed: the politician’s foundation has 200 million rubles. According to the CEC, of ​​these 200 million, there are no donations from legal entities in the amount of more than 200 thousand rubles and from individuals – over 20 thousand rubles.

In the 2012 elections, Zhirinovsky’s foundation received 245 million rubles, of which 40 million were the personal funds of the politician, another 193 million were transferred by the party that nominated him, and 12 million rubles were donated by legal entities.

On January 12, Zhirinovsky asked the deputies of the State Duma to support his campaign. In his Telegram channel, the politician suggested that parliamentarians and colleagues from all fractions “show solidarity” and transfer “for example, one million rubles” into his election account, as he is the only deputy of the State Duma, who is running for president in this election. “We, the State Duma, are another branch of power, we must have mutual support,” Zhirinovsky wrote. It is not known whether any deputy responded to his appeal.

At the session of the State Duma, Zhirinovsky also noted that he would be able to raise 400 million rubles, if each of 450 deputies contribute one million. Zhirinovsky, who was running from the LDPR party, became the first officially registered candidate for the presidency.

Zhirinovsky has not started spending the money yet. In the 2012 elections, the politician spent 245.9 million rubles: its greater part went to the organization of television and radio broadcasting, pre-election campaigning in print media and the production of printed materials.

Another candidate, who does not need to collect signatures, Pavel Grudinin, a deputy of the city of Vidnoye in the Moscow Region from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, also has not started spending his money during the New Year holidays. However, his electoral account has only 143 thousand rubles.



Journalist Ksenia Sobchak has almost 20 million rubles on her account; the authorized representative for the rights of entrepreneurs, Boris Titov, has a little more (20.7 million rubles). 15 million rubles were transferred to the account of the candidate from the Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky. Seven candidates collected less than 1 million rubles. Elvira Argubash has the smallest amount on her account – 10,600 rubles.


Some participants of the race have symbolic expenses: Agurbash – 7450 rubles, Sergei Baburin – 23 thousand, Ekaterina Gordon – 28.5 thousand, Natalia Lisitsyna – 60 thousand, Roman Khudyakov – 43,6 thousand.

Other candidates have already launched their campaigns. Grigory Yavlinsky spent more than 11.3 million rubles, of which 1.8 million went for financial support for the collection of signatures. Boris Titov spent more than 5.4 million, of which 2.9 million rubles also covered the costs associated with the collection of signatures. Another 2.2 million rubles went to the production and distribution of printed propaganda materials. Maxim Suraykin spent more than 350 thousand rubles, of which 220 thousand he gave to ensure the collection of signatures. Stanislav Polishch gave 108 thousand for collecting signatures as well.

Ksenia Sobchak says that she actively meets with potential sponsors of her staff. Now, the journalist spent more than 4.2 million rubles from the collected 19.4 million. Sobchak gave 3.6 million for the collection of signatures, another 150 thousand she spent to pay for information services. At that, Sobchak, Yavlinsky and Titov managed to collect more than half of the required signatures.


Irina Volynets, a candidate from the People's Party of Russia, says that most of the funds raised by the candidates go to campaigning: “Candidates who go from non-parliamentary parties spend considerable money collecting signatures, because those who are involved in that must receive salaries, and signatures must not only be collected, but also verified. According to the calculations of the political technologists, more than 100 million rubles are spent for the collection of signatures and their verification. The rest of the money goes to the election campaign.”

“Some of the candidates will be able to afford to pay for election observation, because the result must not only be obtained, but also properly protected. The protection of the result means paying to the observers and mobile response units,” Volynets said.

The accounts of the candidates already have 656 million rubles, and donations continue to flow. In the presidential elections of 2012, candidates spent almost 1.5 billion rubles on election campaigning, in 2008, spending was much more modest – only 263 million. The candidates receive the most money from the political parties that nominated them, and the main expenditure items are the organization of TV and radio broadcasting, production and distribution printed materials, holding public events and collecting signatures.

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