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Campaign manager for Russia's Democratic Coalition now in police custody

Alexei Pivovarov, the head of the campaign team for Russia’s so-called Democratic Coalition, has been detained by police in the city of Kostroma.

According to a Facebook post written by opposition activist Ilya Yashin, Pivovarov was detained when he arrived at a local police station to check databases of signatures, to prove that the signatures his volunteers have been gathering are valid. The signatures are required in order to register the coalition’s candidates as runners in the Novosibirsk elections, which take place later this year in September.

According to the pro-Kremlin news channel LifeNews, Pivovarov tried to buy the database of signatures from a police officer. The police officer is now under investigation for abuse of authority.

A criminal case has also been launched against Pivovarov in connection with unauthorized access to computer data. 

The criminal case against Pivovarov is clearly political. He’s been framed.

Ilya Yashin

The Democratic Coalition is a collaboration between several opposition groups: Alexei Navalny’s Party of Progress, "Parnas" (the People's Freedom Party), and several others. The coalition was founded to provide a platform for like-minded candidates to participate in elections across Russia’s regions.

The coalition lined up three candidates to run in Novosibirsk's upcoming legislative elections in September. In order for the candidates to be registered in the race, Russian law requires that they submit at least 10,657 signatures in support of their candidacy.

At a meeting on July 27, the city's election committee determined that only 10,187 of the Democratic Coalition’s signatures were valid, thereby barring the coalition’s candidates from the Novosibirsk elections.

Leaders of the coalition have claimed that the election committee’s decision is unlawful, since the mistakes allegedly occurred in the process of checking the validity of the signatures in the Federal Migration Service's database, not in the process of gathering the signatures.

After the meeting, Democratic Coalition representatives refused to leave the election commission's building and were detained by police. On July 28, they were fined for disobeying police orders.

Opposition politician Alexei Navalny has said he thinks the requirements for collecting signatures are merely a ploy designed by the government to bar opposition candidates from elections.