Russia’s liberal opposition is on a high after achieving a series of unprecedented victories in the Kremlin’s backyard at local council elections — including in the wealthy Moscow district where Vladimir Putin cast his own ballot. The United Democrats coalition — spearheaded by Dmitry Gudkov, a former opposition lawmaker, and Yabloko, Russia’s oldest anti-Putin party — claimed 14 districts in the September 10 elections, in some cases winning with a landslide. Opposition candidates held just one district before Sunday’s vote. The majority of the districts won by the coalition lie in the very heart of Moscow. In the Tverskaya district, home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents, the opposition took 11 out of 12 council seats. The coalition also recorded a clean sweep of seats in the Gagarinsky district, the Red Square neighborhood where Putin is registered to vote.
“This is the start of a new political era,” Vitali Shkliarov, the movement’s Soviet-born, U.S.-based adviser, said in an interview near the Kremlin as the final votes came in.
Among the victorious opposition candidates were Ilya Yashin — a former ally of Boris Nemtsov, the Kremlin critic shot dead in central Moscow in 2015 — and Ilya Azar, a well-known opposition journalist. (Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who wants to challenge Putin for the presidency, played no role in the campaign.)