MOSCOW: Demonstrators gather during a rally against results of the recent parliamentary elections at the Pushkin Square on Saturday.—AP
MOSCOW: Demonstrators gather during a rally against results of the recent parliamentary elections at the Pushkin Square on Saturday.—AP

MOSCOW: Russia’s Com­munist Party on Saturday led a well-attended protest in central Moscow over what they called “colossal” fraud in parliamentary polls as police detained a number of activists.

It was the first sizable Moscow protest since this month’s controversial polls, and police did not break up the unsanctioned rally but played loud music in an effort to drown out the protesters.

Before and during the pro­test, authorities deta­ined a number of activists including Sergei Udaltsov, head of a radical socialist group, Left Front, according to OVD-Info, which tracks det­entions at opposition rallies.

In his residence outside Moscow, President Vladimir Putin hailed the ruling party’s “convincing victory” and said Russian democracy was growing stronger as he hosted the heads of five parties which won parliamentary seats including Commu­nist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Putin’s opponents have accused the authorities of mass fraud after results showed the deeply unpopular ruling United Russia party winning a sweeping majority in parliament at legislative polls.

The three-day vote took place following a historic crackdown on the opposition, with authorities imprisoning Putin’s most vocal critic Alexei Navalny and formally outlawing his organisations.

Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Russians in Moscow and elsewhere backed the Communists as a form of protest voting, some for the first time.

More than a thousand protesters packed Pushkin Square on Saturday as Com­munist figures decried what they called a stolen election, a 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.

Some protesters at the rally said they did not support Communism as a political ideology but showed up at the protest anyway to express their anger over electoral fraud.

“Not only members of the Communist Party are here,” Deniza Lisova, 26, said. “Eve­ryone is here, and we all supported the Commu­nist Party during the election.” Members of the Com­m­u­nist Party took particular issue with electronic voting results in Moscow.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2021

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