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Moscow investigators launch criminal case against opposition for ‘exerting pressure’ on election officials

Investigative officials in Moscow announced on Wednesday, July 24, that they have opened a criminal case in response to the opposition’s protests against election officials’ refusal to register dozens of independent candidates in upcoming City Duma elections. 

According to the Moscow Investigative Committee’s head office, “the participants of one of the movements have organized deliberately illegal and unpermitted rallies and public pickets at buildings and Moscow Election Commission premises, with the goal of exerting pressure on members of the city’s election commission and local district election commissions.” Officials say election commission members have also been threatened with violence.

Officials have not specified which protests led to the new criminal case. At a demonstration on Sunday, July 14, outside the Moscow Election Commission building, police arrested 39 protesters, three of whom were hospitalized.

Earlier this month, Moscow election officials refused to register dozens of candidates running against Mayor Sergey Sobyanin's administration. The candidates argue that their applications to join the September ballot were rejected illegally for political reasons. Many have challenged the election commission's decision.

On Wednesday, July 24, police arrested anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny outside his home in Moscow. He is reportedly charged with the misdemeanor offense of advocating an unpermitted protest. At a mass demonstration on July 20 in support of the rejected candidates, Navalny suggested staging another protest on July 27 outside City Hall, if the authorities still refuse to register the race’s opposition candidates.