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Thousands of communists rally for fair elections in Moscow (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Thousands of communists rally for fair elections in Moscow (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
A throng of left-wing activists gathered in the heart of Moscow, demanding fair elections and social justice. The rally took place on the heels of massive opposition protests that have been hitting the city for three weekends.

The Communist Party (KPRF) demonstration, sanctioned by Moscow authorities, kicked off at noon on Sakharov Avenue, a spacious, usually busy place that’s been temporarily pedestrianized by police. Attendance at the rally initially seemed modest, with around 500 protesters turning up, but more people joined as the day progressed.

Aside from KPRF, there were also members of smaller left-wing groups who chose to join forces with the larger party. Moscow police estimated that over 4,100 people attended the event.

Thousands of communists rally for fair elections in Moscow (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

The venue was full of red flags and banners, and some demonstrators even exhibited portraits of Stalin and Lenin.

Although the demonstration centered around the forthcoming city council elections, the communists and their allies took the opportunity to deliver a broader anti-establishment message. “We reject oligarchs that rob the people and strip them of their right to a free and peaceful vote,” Gennady Zyuganov, the long-time KPRF leader, tweeted.

Speaking at the rally, he also vowed to “restore the Soviet Union in a new form.”

The scheduled gathering went peacefully, although there was some level of police presence in the area. Officers checked bags and secured the perimeter, while the city blocked traffic and cancelled bus services on the avenue.

Russia’s communists joined the chorus of government critics after their own candidates were disqualified from running for seats in Moscow’s 45-member city legislature. Earlier this month, they demanded the sacking of the head of the local electoral commission, Valentin Gorbunov, and triggered massive opposition rallies.

Muscovites are set to elect members to the next city council next month. Earlier, the authorities disqualified dozens of independent candidates who wanted to contest the election.

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The electoral commission claimed that too many of the required signatures belonging eligible voters were invalid, sparking outrage among liberal opposition figures and their followers. On July 27, they staged a massive unsanctioned gathering in Moscow, followed by another one on August 3.

A wave of street protests saw a total of 3,000 protesters detained over the participation in unsanctioned rallies. The latest rally on August 10 turned out to be the biggest, with at least 20,000 people taking to the streets of downtown Moscow, according to police figures. White Counter, a crowd-counting NGO, put the number of protesters at 50,000.

READ MORE: Senator slams Moscow police for using ‘excessive force’ to break up unsanctioned protests

Although it wasn’t violent, 136 people were arrested after they left the agreed location on Sakharov Avenue and marched through the city center, chanting anti-government slogans.

This Saturday, the city authorities banned the liberals from demonstrating, with Lyubov Sobol, an emerging protest leader, urging followers not to take part in any gathering.

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