Rallies are due to take place on Saturday in support of a Russian politician who is on hunger strike after disputing local election results. Oleg Shein ran for Mayor of Astrakhan, a city next to the Caspian Sea on March 4.
The vote was won by the candidate selected by United Russia, President-elect Vladimir Putin’s party. Shein came second.
Shein, who with several supporters has been without food for almost a month wants the city’s residents to decide if the vote was fair. He called for the election to be re-staged.
Popular blogger and opposition activist Alexei Navalny backed up allegations of irregularities. He said he saw video evidence of voting violations and claimed that Shein is the city’s legimately elected mayor.
Protests are due to be held in Astrakhan and in the Russian capital Moscow on Saturday, where the issue was raised in the Duma this week.
Putin, who is set to be inaugurated as president for a third term on May 7, described the hunger strike as “strange”. He suggested that Shein’s grievance should be dealt with by the courts. Opposition politicians walked out in disgust.
The media in Astrakhan has mostly stayed silent about Shein’s plight leaving a sense of apathy among voters.