How Moscow faces unsanctioned protest rally over mayoral election, police detain opposition leaders

A protest was organized by the Russian opposition in defiance of a ban by city officials ahead of a council election in Moscow. Police detained some of the protest leaders and ordered activists to disperse.

People gathered in front of the Moscow mayor’s office on Saturday, a week after a previous rally saw at least 12,000 protesters gather in the city center. Unlike the previous demonstration, however, the latest event was not sanctioned.

Mayor Sergey Sobyanin warned Muscovites that the rally could be used for provocations, and advised citizens not to attend. There is a heavy police presence in the area, with some officers wearing riot gear.

This week’s protest was called by opposition leader Aleksey Navalny during the demonstration last Saturday. He was detained on Wednesday and sentenced to a 30-day administrative arrest for organizing an illegal event. Five other opposition leaders – Lyubov Sobol, Dmitry Gudkov, Ivan Zhdanov, Ilya Yasin and Yulia Galyamina – were reportedly held by the police on Saturday before they could reach the site of the demonstration.

Dozens of activists were also reportedly detained at the scene after failing to comply with police orders to disperse.

The ongoing series of protests in Moscow started two weeks ago after the Central Election Commission disqualified a dozen candidates wishing to run for the city council in September. The commission said fraud was discovered in lists of voter signatures submitted by the candidates as proof of public support. Submitting such proof is required by the Russian law.

The opposition said the disqualification was based on dishonest expert opinions and was thus illegal. They rallied public support to make the commission reconsider. The commission has rejected the opposition demands, saying it would not yield to mob pressure.

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