An anti-corruption crusader has won a landslide victory in a mayoral election in a major Russian city, dealing a painful blow to the powerful pro-Kremlin party and energizing the beleaguered opposition. Yevgeny Urlashov won 70 percent of Sunday’s vote in Yaroslavl, a city of about 590,000 some 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow, easily defeating the acting mayor, who was the candidate of president-elect Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Urlashov’s victory reflects growing public irritation with official corruption and social inequality. And it gives new hope to Russia’s opposition, which has struggled to maintain momentum after Putin won a third presidential term last month. Opposition leaders have urged their supporters to focus on local elections, and Urlashov’s victory in Sunday’s poll will likely bolster that strategy.
“People of Yaroslavl have grown tired of corruption and nepotism, they want changes,” Urlashov said Monday on Ekho Moskvy radio. He has promised to fight graft by introducing tight public control over the city government’s spending and to cut red tape.
Urlashov, a 45-year-old lawyer who was a member of the municipal council, won the race following a campaign heavily slanted in favor of his rival, who received blanket positive coverage from local television. Authorities also sought to intimidate Urlashov with a police raid on his headquarters.