Russian Communists Lead Protests Against ‘Colossal’ Election Fraud
More than a thousand Russians, including prominent members of the Communist Party, gathered in Moscow’s central square on Saturday to protest what Kremlin critics are calling massive election fraud as police arrest a number of activists .
Opponents of President Vladimir Putin have accused authorities of fraud after results showed the deeply unpopular ruling United Russia party won a large majority in parliament in this month’s parliamentary elections.
The three-day vote came following a historic crackdown on the opposition, with authorities jailing Putin’s most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny, and officially banning his organizations.
With nearly all of the harsh Kremlin critics barred from running, many Russians in Moscow and elsewhere supported the Communists as a form of protest voting, some for the first time.
More than a thousand protesters gathered in Pushkin Square on Saturday as Communist figures denounced what they called a stolen election, an AFP correspondent said.
The crowd chanted “Putin is a thief!” and called for the release of political prisoners.
Some protesters carried signs demanding a recount, others expressed support for Navalny.
Before the demonstration, the authorities arrested a number of activists, including Sergei Udaltsov, leader of a radical socialist group, Left Front, said OVD-Info, which monitors detentions at opposition rallies.
The authorities reinforced the police presence in the square, but the police did not interrupt the rally. Instead, they played loud music in an attempt to drown out the speakers.
“United Russia has stolen legislative warrants,” Valery Rashkin, first secretary of the Communist Party in Moscow, told protesters.
He and other Communists have raised a particular issue with the results of electronic voting in Moscow, which overturned the lead of Communist Party candidates in the September 17-19 vote.
“There was colossal election fraud in Moscow,” Rashkin said, adding that the party would challenge the election results.
Communist lawmaker Alexei Kurinny praised Muscovites for being at the forefront of a fight for fair elections.
“Whoever steals votes is a criminal,” he told the rally.
Veteran Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who, along with other party leaders, was due to meet with Putin, did not attend the rally.
© 2021 AFP