Thousands rally in Moscow and dozens of Russians cities in growing election protests

Russian liberal opposition gather for a rally protesting against unfair Moscow State Duma elections in the center of Moscow, Russia, August 10, 2019. The liberal opposition called their supporters to continue their protest actions against rejecting their candidates for Moscow City Duma elections, which are scheduled for September. (Photo: Yuri Kochetkov, EPA-EFE)

For the fifth weekend in a row, thousands of demonstrators turned out in Moscow Saturday to protest the refusal of authorities to allow a slate of independent candidates on the fall city council elections ballot.

Unlike last Saturday’s demonstration in front of Moscow city hall, this weekend’s rally at Andrei Sakharov Square was authorized, although many people had to wait in long lines to go through security to reach the site. 

In a sign of growing support for the protests, two young Russians with millions of followers on social media -— YouTuber Yury Dud and rapper Oxxxymiron — called on their supporters to join Saturday’s rally.

As many as 7,000 people — many carrying Russia flags and protest signs — jammed into the square to hear a series of speakers and entertainers.

Some opposition figures also called for an unauthorized march into the capital’s center after the permitted rally.

At least one of the would-be candidates, Lyubov Sobol, who is on a hunger strike, was detained by police before the rally, according to the independent newspaper Moscow Times.

Sobol posted a video on Twitter of the moment when police broke into her office to take her into custody.

In addition to Moscow’s rally, which was livestreamed by the independent Dozhd TV, similar solidarity protests were held in other Russians cities, according to jailed protest leader Alexei Navalny. These include St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen,, Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don.

Servicemen of the Russian National Guard walk during a rally in central Moscow on August 10, 2019 after mass police detentions. On a rainy afternoon, protesters huddled under umbrellas on the central Prospekt Andreya Sakharova street, where city authorities had given permission for the rally to take place. (Photo: YURI Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images)

At issue is access to the fall ballot for the 45-seat Moscow City Council. The opposition-backed candidates have been rejected by authorities who claim they did not get enough signatures to qualify. The candidates reject this claim.

Russia’s main election board this week rejected their appeals, including one by Sobol.

Contributing: Associated Press

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