Russian President Vladimir Putin cast his vote in local elections today after a campaign had overshadowed the Kremlin's largest anti-demonstrators campaign in years.
The Moscow parliamentary elections took on a rare significance after a number of opposition candidates were excluded from the vote, triggering mass protests.
Tens of thousands of people have joined demonstrations to demand a fair vote, accompanied by rap stars and prominent bloggers, and almost all opposition candidates in Moscow were imprisoned briefly.
Government tax was the largest in Russia since a wave of protests in 2011-12 when Putin returned to the presidency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin casts his vote today in local elections in Moscow (photo) after a campaign overshadowed by mass protests and arrests
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose allies could not run, urged voters to vote tactically to punish the Kremlin and the ruling party in the United Russia.
Putin voted in the elections in Moscow today and his motorcade was seen through deserted streets.
Asked if he wanted to see more candidates in the vote, the leader of the Kremlin said it was the & # 39; quality & # 39; was what mattered, not quantity.
Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for the anti-corruption fund of Navalny, who was excluded from participation, said the current election had lost the last veneer of legitimacy.
The interest of voters seemed low on Sunday, with only 5.6 percent of voters voting from noon, the city committee said.
& # 39; Of course nobody wants to go to the polls, & # 39; said Sobol, who has become the brightest star in a new generation of political challengers.
Tens of thousands of people protested to demand a fair vote (one of the demonstrations is shown) and almost all opposition candidates in Moscow were imprisoned briefly
Alyona Prokhorova, a 46-year-old mother of four, said she was so shocked by the oppression that she enrolled as an election observer to check for possible irregularities.
Two non-sanctioned protest meetings were roughly distributed by the police, who beat some protesters and held more than 2,400 people in total.
A later sanctioned protest attracted around 60,000 people.
Russians also elected governors in 16 regions and legislative elections were held in 13 regions.
The polls are seen as a test of the ability of 43-year-old Navalny to mobilize Kremlin critics prior to the parliamentary elections in 2021.
Navalny himself was arrested during the campaign.
Navalny tried to challenge Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency in the 2018 elections, but a court stopped his campaign after a fraud conviction that many see as politics.
The Kremlin has long dismissed him as a problem maker and city dweller who has no contact with ordinary Russians.
But he triggered some alarms after opening campaign offices in 80 towns and villages, most of which had been out of political life for decades and attracted thousands of supporters.
Putin eventually won the election with 77 percent of the vote after Navalny was kept out of the vote.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, daughter Daria and son Zakhar pose today for a photo outside a polling station
It came when Russia sent a mocking message to France about the Yellow Vest protests that were resumed yesterday, just as President Emmanuel Macron makes overtures to bring Putin's regime out of the cold.
Russian diplomats said they were concerned about the massive police arrests of protesters & # 39; during the protests on Saturday, following the language that is often used about the Russian performance.
& # 39; The freedom of peaceful assembly must be respected & # 39 ;, said the Russian mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Twitter.
About 55 people were arrested yesterday after protests, because the Yellow Vest movement seems to get back on track after it seems to be exhausted in the summer.
Russian trolls are commonplace on the social media accounts of Moscow, but the final comment is a slap in the face of Macron and his efforts to build bridges.
The French Foreign and Defense Ministers will meet their Russian counterparts in Moscow on Monday in the first so-called & # 39; 2 + 2 & # 39; format since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Relations with Russia have since declined further in a series of disputes over Iran, Venezuela and the Sergei Skripal poisoning in Britain last year.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev today casts his vote in the local elections in Moscow
But Macron has tried to keep the lines with Putin open and invited him to talk at his summer residence just before last month's G7 summit.
After the meeting, he told the French diplomatic corps that it was time to go beyond & # 39; misunderstandings & # 39; and & # 39; review our ties with Russia & # 39 ;.
In Moscow, French officials will & # 39; cooperate paths & # 39; explore a range of high-stakes strategic issues.
These include Ukraine, the wobbling nuclear agreement on Iran and the renewed arms race between the US and Russia, one official said.
In the coming weeks, Paris has already called for a summit with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France.
The French protests received new impetus yesterday after having flagged in recent months.
Officials in the southern city of Montpellier said about 2,000 people had gathered in the center of the city, while the organizers brought their numbers closer to 5,000.
At the peak of their momentum at the end of 2018, the & # 39; gilets gathered jaunes & # 39; 250,000 people to express their anger against Macron and the high cost of living in France.
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