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Jul 28, 10:54 AM EDT

3 Russian opposition figures go on hunger strike to protest refusal to run in elections



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MOSCOW (AP) -- Three Russian opposition activists went on hunger strike Tuesday to protest authorities' decision to disqualify them from a local election.

Leonid Volkov, campaign chief for the opposition in Novosibirsk, and candidates Yegor Savin and Sergei Boyko began the strike on Tuesday after the election commission in Russia's third-largest city didn't accept the signatures they submitted to register to run in the upcoming local legislature vote - viewed by the opposition as a dress rehearsal for next year's parliamentary election.

The three say they will continue their protest, eating nothing and drinking only water, until the Central Election Commission reviews their case. Volkov contested the commission's decision which found faults with some 1,300 signatures of the more than 11,600 they submitted, saying the commission was referring to an outdated ID database.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was canvassing in Novosibirsk and two other big cities earlier this summer in a bid to energize the voters and said Monday's decision of electoral authorities is an ominous sign before the 2016 Duma vote.

"These three brave and honest men have gone on hunger strike to protect electoral rights of all Russians," he wrote in his blog. "The way the opposition was thrown out from election ballots in Siberia is going to replicate tomorrow across the country, and this scenario will be used for the State Duma election as well."

Meanwhile, the Investigative Committee in Novosibirsk said in a statement later on Tuesday that they opened a probe into possible fraud at the opposition's headquarters in Novosibirsk. Investigators said that they have received a complaint from an individual who said he collected signatures for the RPR-Parnas coalition but did not get paid.

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