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Putin To Boost Moscow Mayor's Profile Ahead Of Key Elections

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin (left) tours an exhibition in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin (left) tours an exhibition in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to use a high-profile visit with Moscow's mayor to lend the ruling party public support on the eve of local and regional elections at the center of weeks of Russian street protests.

Putin and United Russia party ally Mayor Sergei Sobyanin planned on September 7 to tour a recently renovated Soviet-era exhibition venue in the capital, according to local media.

Russian law bans political messages or agitation on the day before voting and on election day.

The Russian president has largely avoided commenting on the protests that erupted two months ago when election officials barred dozens of opposition or independent candidates from getting on ballots in Moscow for the September 8 vote.

But police have detained thousands and courts have jailed some protesters for years over the course of the weekly antigovernment demonstrations that followed the announcement of the candidate exclusions in July.

They have raided homes and offices of would-be candidates and opposition leaders, and jailed a number of the opposition hopefuls.

The elections were scheduled so as to land one day after so-called Moscow City Day, an annual holiday when streets near the Kremlin close down and residents hit the parks and main attractions by the thousands.

During their meeting, Sobyanin and Putin will also visit a renovated and expanded sports complex at Luzhniki Park.

Putin's activities are often the top stories of the day in Russia's state-dominated TV news sector, and the media and public gag on electioneering almost guarantees extensive coverage of his strolls with Sobyanin.

Sobyanin rules Moscow city's $43 billion budget with little oversight from a friendly parliament.

Meanwhile, Russia has asked Facebook and Google to prevent political ads on its social-media platforms this weekend in accordance with national law as the country prepares for regional elections.

Roskomnadzor, the state communications regulator, said on September 6 that it had sent a letter to the companies reminding them to "take all measures" to stop the distribution of political ads during the so-called "quiet period."

Russia will hold elections for regional parliaments and leaders on September 8. No political agitation is permitted the day before and the day of elections.

Russia will consider any political ads on their platforms as foreign interference in the country's sovereign affairs and "obstruction of democratic elections," the statement said.

The Russian regulator has already raised concerns about U.S.-based social-media companies interfering in the country's political process. Roskomnazdor this summer accused YouTube of promoting unsanctioned political rallies.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax
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