MOSCOW (AP) — Six Russian opposition activists ended their hunger strike on Saturday after one of them was hospitalized following 12 days of going without food to protest being barred from elections.
The activists in Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, said their decision was in response to urging from opposition leader Alexei Navalny and two other prominent opposition figures.
Navalny had called on the activists to abandon the strike for the sake of their health and devote their energies instead to organizing a protest in Moscow on Sept. 13, the day local elections will be held across Russia.
Leonid Volkov, who was leading the opposition campaign for the regional legislature in Novosibirsk, agreed. "The right for elections has been taken away from us — no more illusions — so we must hurry to make use of the right to walk through the streets before it is taken away, too," Volkov wrote on his website.
Navalny was instrumental in organizing the mass street protests that broke out in Moscow in late 2011 after a national parliamentary election that independent monitors said involved large-scale ballot stuffing and other voting fraud.
The opposition was barred from the race for the Novosibirsk legislature when the local election commission found fault with some of the nearly 12,000 signatures the activists submitted to register candidates.
The local elections have added significance because any party that wins at least one seat on any regional legislature can run in the 2016 national election without having to go through the onerous process of collecting signatures to get on the ballot.
The only seat the opposition had held was won by Boris Nemtsov, the veteran opposition figure who was shot to death in Moscow in February.