MOSCOW -- Opposition figure Aleksei Navalny has told a rally of his supporters on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square they were cheated out of a victory in the weekend mayoral election in the Russian capital.
Election officials said Navalny lost the election to incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and that there were no violations, but Navalny told cheering supporters on September 9 that the poll had given birth to a genuine opposition force in Russia.
"A huge opposition has been born in Russia," he said. "A real and big political movement has been born in Russia that represents the interests of the majority, that is capable of running in elections with a constructive program and win. We are this political movement!"
Navalny said the opposition had suffered defeats in Russia's elections for 15 years but that this time was different.
"We have been longing to stage a victorious rally for such a long time," he said. We got really tired of having been continuously losing for the last 13 to 15 years. I am happy to speak here today in front of you at a rally of victory. Thank you!"
Could Face Prison Soon
Navalny acknowledged that he could be put in prison "soon" after a court in the city of Kirov found him guilty of embezzlement and sentenced him to five years in jail.
He was freed to campaign for Moscow mayor while his appeal was being considered.
Navalny claims that there were violations that allowed Sobyanin to poll 51.3 percent of the vote -- just enough to avoid a runoff with Navalny, who came in second with 27.2 percent according to the initial figures.
Authorities had given permission for no more 2,500 people to attend the event, though a RFE/RL correspondent on the scene estimated the crowd at around four times that size. Moscow police estimated the crowd numbered some 9,000 people.
Navalny's campaign team has demanded a recount of the vote and complained about the "home voting" that allowed thousands of elderly people and invalids to vote from their homes.
Sobyanin, who has run Moscow since 2011, said it was "the most honest and open election in the history of Moscow."
The election commission said there were no major violations. Voter turnout was put at 32 percent.
Sobyanin on September 9 called on his rivals not to "rock the boat" and concede defeat.
With reporting by Interfax, AFP, and AP