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From his office in the middle of the city, Sobyanin presides over Moscow’s City Council (which is controlled by Putin allies) and appoints the heads of district council executive boards, or upravas.The upravas oversee the activities of liberal councils like the one in Gagarinsky.Home to scientific institutions and a Moscow University skyscraper, the district has a large number of children and relatives of scientists who moved there in the 1950s.Ever since it elected famous dissident Andrei Sakharov to the Soviet parliament in 1989, Gagarinsky, which sits southwest of the Kremlin, has had a reputation as one of the most liberal-leaning districts in the entire country.These days, she’s affiliated with the liberal Yabloko party and chairs the Gagarinsky council with an absolute majority of fellow activists.Before the election, they had worked to block several construction projects, including a proposed rebuilding of Leninsky Prospekt, a central Moscow thoroughfare that bisects Gagarinsky.

Liberal candidates for national and regional offices have repeatedly come under pressure by the government during his tenure.Anti-Putin liberals have filled local councils in the Russian capital’s historic and commercial core as well as a few upmarket residential areas — attaining majorities in 17 of the city’s 125 municipal districts.In some others, the opposition has sizable minorities.Rusakova, 55, a social psychologist, has been an activist since before the Berlin Wall fell.In 1988, she joined Memorial, an organization that researches state-sponsored violence under the former Communist regime (and which has been targeted by Putin’s campaign against “foreign” agents).Almost all of the council’s new members are middle-aged professionals and academics.

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