Over 22,000 people in central Moscow gathered for a protest in front of the local municipality building on Saturday, demanding that candidates of the opposition parties in Russia be allowed to run in local elections. Police used batons to arrest over 1,000 protesters.
The protesters claimed that the order not to allow opposition candidates to run in the local elections under various pretexts came from the Kremlin leaders, including President Vladimir Putin himself. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, an ally of Putin, warned the protesters that the local police would not allow them to gather in front of the municipality building and would suppress the protest.
"Attempts to set an ultimatum and organize violent demonstrations will not lead to anything good," Sobyanin wrote on Twitter. Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader in Russia who organized the demonstration and who is considered a bitter rival of Putin, was arrested last Wednesday and sent to 30 days of detention.
Other opposition leaders who were supposed to lead the protest were also arrested and were released only on Saturday evening after the opposition protest was forcibly dispersed by the police.
"We won't have anyone to vote for on election day. It's terrible. I feel like we live under occupation," said Nadezda Filinskaya, 59, a Moscow resident who took part in the protest.
The Moscow authorities have decided to disqualify some of the opposition members who signed up run in the local elections, claiming they forged the signatures required to allow them to run.