Kremlin suffers losses in Moscow city vote after protests

Opposition declares tactical victory as ruling party loses 13 seats on Moscow city council

Even as United Russia went to some lengths to hide its identity - taking on different local names or arranging for candidates to run as "independents" - it did better overall, by far, than any other party.

Although more than 5,000 elections at different levels were held on the so-called "single day of voting", all the attention was focused on Moscow, where the election commission's decision to not allow virtually all of the opposition candidates to contest led to the largest protests in Russian Federation since 2012.

United Russia's Moscow candidates rebranded as independents in an apparent effort to distance themselves from the party, whose popularity is at a more than decade-long low, a tactic that appears not to have paid off.

"Moscow needs normal elections", Besedina declared.

The election results came as the United Nations rights chief urged an investigation into excessive use of force by Russian police in response to the protests.

"In any case this is a fantastic outcome of smart voting, and we've been having difficulties for this result all with each other".

On Monday, Mr Navalny told viewers of his popular YouTube channel that the fractious opposition would never fully unite but had realised the "power of collective action" to challenge Mr Putin's rule.

The opposition has called for voters to punish the Kremlin and the ruling United Russia party at the ballot box.

Peskov stressed that the United Russia party "has won the overwhelming majority of seats and has lost some of them". "Across the country, the party showed its political leadership", he told reporters on Monday.

In St. Petersburg, interim governor Beglov scored 64 percent of the vote, although he is unpopular among local residents.

But the relatively poor results in Moscow will give hope to opposition parties ahead of those national elections. There were reports on social media about violations by various activists which can't be independently verified.

Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said tech giants Google and Facebook had allowed political advertising during Sunday's regional elections despite being asked to ban such publicity. Two other small opposition parties that are tolerated by the Kremlin (unlike Mr. Navalny's movement) won a combined seven seats.

In a statement, European Union spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said, "anybody elected in the Crimean Peninsula claiming to "represent" the populations of Crimea and Sevastopol will not be recognized as representatives of those territories, which are Ukrainian".

Protests erupted in mid-July after the Central Election Commission refused to register a large number of opposition candidates, saying they had failed to collect enough signatures from genuine backers. But it is misguided, Stanovaya reported, "to believe the communists are a party that constantly plays the video game with the Kremlin, that they are under Kremlin handle".

The decision to bar the candidates sparked a wave of protests, the largest since the massive 2011-12 protests against Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term as president.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Moscow over the last few months calling for free and fair elections.

According to Andrei Turchak, the United Russia has received over 60% of mandates in Russian regional legislative bodies without taking into account the self-nominees that may join the United Russia parliamentary fractions later.

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