Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, has claimed a "historic" victory for his tactical voting campaign after Kremlin-backed candidates lost 13 seats on the Moscow city council following major protests and revelations of corruption.
Candidates supported by the ruling United Russia party and mayor Sergei Sobyanin kept a narrow majority of 25 seats, but lost several embarrassing district races even though liberal opposition candidates were barred from Sunday's vote.
With opposition support, the Communists and left-leaning A Just Russia, both of which rarely challenge the Kremlin in parliament, won 13 and three seats respectively, while the old-guard liberal party Yabloko returned to the city council with four seats.
The result will put the Kremlin on edge ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections, where the ruling party must retain a majority to ensure either reforms to keep Vladimir Putin in office or a smooth transition of power as his presidential term limit comes to an end.
Yesterday, 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.
"I hope that you enjoyed electing (city council) deputies," he said.
"It's a new feeling, isn't it, when it's not Putin and Sobyanin but rather us deciding who will be deputy," he said.
"It's a good feeling. Let's get used to it."
He claimed candidates backed by his "smart voting" campaign would have won a majority if not for electoral fraud in four districts where the ruling party won narrow victories.
Almost two dozen liberal opposition candidates were refused registration on technicalities this summer, prompting tens of thousands to repeatedly take to the streets. More than 2,700 were arrested.
© Daily Telegraph, London