Russian election chief attacked ahead of polls

Pamfilova has backed a decision barring Moscow opposition candidates

The head of Russia's central election committee was attacked at night by a masked assailant who climbed into her house and hit her with a taser, Russian police said Friday.

The attack on 65-year-old Ella Pamfilova, at around 1:30 am (Thursday 2330 GMT) came ahead of contentious regional elections on Sunday, which have prompted large protests in Moscow.

Police described the attack in a village outside Moscow as "armed assault," saying the offender "entered the house's conservatory via a window and hit the owner with an electric shocker several times, after which he fled".

Pamfilova on Friday took part in a conference in Moscow and television footage did not show any visible injuries.

Speaking to Rossiya 24 she said she hurt her finger while trying to fight off the attacker.

"He was wearing gloves and a mask," she said.

"I'm in shock -- imagine waking up and there is a man in your house trying to attack you."

"I want to hope it was an accident... maybe somebody wanted to scare me, or he mixed up houses, or wanted to steal something," she said.

The powerful Investigative Committee said it would be handling the probe into the attack.

State media immediately speculated that the attack could be foul play related to elections for Moscow city parliament, criticised by the opposition after authorities barred most independent candidates from standing.

"What was it, a robbery or carrying out of an order to disrupt the election?" asked state-controlled Rossiya 24 channel.

Meanwhile, top opposition leader Alexei Navalny claimed that the attack was "fake".

Electoral officials including Pamfilova have backed the decision to bar opposition candidates, saying the signatures of supporters they gathered in order to run were invalid.

This led to the biggest political crisis in years, with large protests gathering in the capital since July to demand that the opposition be allowed to run.

Following mass detentions, several people have been sentenced to long prison terms for attacking police during the rallies.

"I hope the culprits are found quickly," wrote one of the rejected opposition candidates, Lyubov Sobol.

"Pamfilova should certainly be put on trial for election falsifications. But I'm against extrajudicial punishment."