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Russia's Yabloko Party Stages 'Beard' Protest

Central Election Commission head Vladimir Churov
MOSCOW -- Russia's opposition Yabloko party has staged a protest in front of the Central Election Commission building in Moscow -- challenging its chairman to shave off his beard, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The demonstrators explained that Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov publicly promised to shave off his beard if the local elections scheduled for March 14 prove to be unfair.

But Yabloko's candidates have been banned from participating in those elections in Kaluga and Sverdlovsk Oblasts. Local election officials said too many signatures gathered in support of Yabloko's applications were deemed inauthentic or invalid.

Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin was among the some 20 activists staging today's protest.

"He promised to shave off his beard, swearing that the elections would be fair. But in two regions [our party's candidates] were not allowed to participate
because of some problems with the signatures, but the signatures were fine," Mitrokhin said.

Police detained several of the protesters.