Pro-Kremlin candidates suffered major losses in a Moscow city election on Monday, following a police crackdown on a wave of anti-government protests over the summer.
But President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov played down the losses, pointing to other local and regional elections across Russia on Sunday in which the ruling party was “very successful”.
Demonstrations broke out in the capital after top opposition figures were barred from standing in the city vote. The protests widened in scope after a harsh response from authorities.
Kremlin-backed candidates previously held 38 of the Moscow assembly’s 45 seats, but after voting that figure is down to 25.
The beneficiaries were the Communist Party — which took 13 seats, up from five — as well as the liberal Yabloko party and the left-leaning Just Russia, which each won three.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called the first summer protests after his allies were kept off the ballot paper, put the pro-Kremlin losses down to his “Smart Voting” plan.
The campaign called on Muscovites to back the politician most likely to beat a pro-Kremlin candidate, whatever their affiliation.