MOSCOW -- More than 20,000 people, including Aleksei Navalny and other prominent opposition figures, rallied in Moscow to demand free and fair local elections, according to White Counter, an NGO that tracks participation in protest events.
The protest on July 20 follows the recent refusal of the electoral authorities to allow about 30 opposition candidates -- including Ilya Yashin, Lyubov Sobol, and Dmitry Gudkov -- to register for city council elections.
Official police figures put the number of participants at 12,000.
“We will show [the authorities] this is a dangerous game," Navalny told the crowd. "We should fight for our candidates."
Navalny warned that another rally would be held on July 27 unless city authorities register the opposition candidates.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who remains popular with much of the country’s populace, was directly targeted by some participants, with one placard saying, “Putin Lies.”
Opposition candidate Yashin, 36, told the crowd that "I've lived half my life under Putin. I've had enough."
Several protest actions have been held in Moscow in recent days against the exclusion of opposition candidates from the elections for the capital's city council, the City Duma.
Navalny, a Kremlin foe and anticorruption campaigner whose bid for the Moscow mayoralty in 2013 was hobbled by a widely criticized criminal conviction and whose presidential candidacy was rejected ahead of the 2018 vote, led the July 20 event.
On July 15, dozens of independent candidates and their supporters rallied on the Trubnaya Square, demanding that commission register their candidacies, after a promised meeting with the commission chief, Valentin Gorbunov, was canceled.
On July 14, police violently dispersed demonstrators who demanded that Gorbunov meet personally with the candidates.
Moscow police detained more than 25 demonstrators outside the Moscow Election Commission headquarters on July 14 after independent and opposition candidates called for a sit-in protest following the commission’s refusal to register them and demanded a meeting with Gorbunov.
Candidates seeking to run for Moscow city council seats in September had to submit 4,500 verifiable signatures of support by July 6 to the election commission.
They campaigned for weeks in their respective neighborhoods in an effort to meet that target.
The election commission said that many of the signatures for opposition candidates were invalid, claiming that names, addresses, or passport details were incorrect.
Thousands Rally In Moscow For Barred Opposition City-Council Candidates