Moscow opposition holds vigils across city for free elections

Russian political opposition supporters held vigils across Moscow on Saturday to call for releasing political prisoners and for free elections, after they were banned from holding a rally.

Under close police scrutiny, individual groups gathered at various monuments in the Russian capital’s city centre in silent protest.

Moscow officials had denied demonstrators permission to hold a rally and protest march in the city centre, so organizers, including the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, decided to hold vigils.

Police did not intervene in the vigils on Saturday.

Moscow has seen protests for several weeks after dozens of opposition candidates were not allowed to run in city council elections set for September 8. Last Saturday, tens of thousands of people gathered to protest the decision to block the candidates and police violence.

Opposition candidate Sergei Mitrokhin, who is allowed on the ballot thanks to a court decision this month, attended one of the vigils. He called the decision to let him run an attempt by the Kremlin to divide the opposition and urged members to stay banded together.

A rally of Communists and other leftists, who are basically loyal to the system, gathered on Saturday to call for clear and honest elections. Police put their numbers at about 4,000 participants.

Thousands of people have been detained during the unapproved protests over the past few weeks. Human rights activists accuse police of using disproportionate violence against peaceful demonstrators.

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