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Navalny Says St. Petersburg Authorities Blocking Him From Meeting With Supporters


Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny at a rally in Omsk

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny said St. Petersburg authorities have repeatedly refused his request for a place to meet with supporters in the city center on October 7.

In a post on his website on September 27, Navalny, an announced presidential candidate, said city managers have only offered to allow him to host the meeting in places on the outskirts of the city that he said are not suitable for the potentially large gathering.

An official representative of the city committee for law and order, Andrei Krasnov, told the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy that Navalny's supporters are "provacateurs" and don't need to meet in the city center.

INFOGRAPHIC: Navalny also having troubles holding a rally in Nizhny Novgorod (CLICK TO VIEW)

Navalny said he plans to one more time submit an application for permission to meet on the city's Field of Mars, according to an English-language translation of his blog post provided online.

If that request is turned down, he said he will hold the meeting instead on the city's Palace Square. Afterwards, Navalny said he will lead a "peaceful procession" on the square.

"I urge all Petersburgers to join. Either on the Mars or on the Palace. This is how the city administration will decide," Navalny wrote, according to the translation.

Navalny ended his announcement by asking whether followers supported his plan. It drew mixed reactions in about 1,431 responses registered by early September 28.

Since announcing last year that he will run in the March 2018 presidential election, Navalny has opened more than 60 campaign offices in different regions of Russia.

In June, however, Russia's Central Election Commission said that Navalny is ineligible to run for public office because of a financial-crimes conviction that he said was politically motivated.

Human Rights Watch in a statement earlier this month said that Russian authorities are "systematically" interfering with Navalny's attempts to run for president, including by raiding his campaign offices, "arbitrarily" detaining campaign volunteers, and carrying out "other actions that unjustifiably interfere with campaigning."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not announced whether he will run for reelection, but he is widely expected to seek and secure a fourth term.

The Kremlin has dismissed Navalny, who finished second in Moscow's 2013 mayoral election with around 27 percent of the vote, as a convict and a marginal political figure.

With reporting by Ekho Moskvy
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