Yekaterinburg Mayor Resigns Over Scrapping Of Direct Mayoral Elections

YEKATERINBURG, Russia -- Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman has announced his resignation, saying he refused to take part in the process of abolishing the direct election of the mayor in Russia's fourth-largest city.

"Since I was elected by the city's residents, I defend the interests of the city's residents. We were put in a situation where we had to legitimize someone else's decision. I will not take part in this under any circumstances," Roizman said on May 22 during a meeting of the city council he chaired.

"Today's meeting is closed. I declare to you that I do not want to participate in this and resign."

Roizman made the announcement after refusing to put on the agenda of the meeting the introduction of amendments to the city's charter abolishing the election of the city's mayor.

Speaking to RFE/RL about his decision, Roizman described the amendments as "a direct cheat on the people of [Yekaterinburg]."

"This is Yekaterinburg -- people will understand me. It was the only way to come clean out of this situation," he added. "Step by step the local council is being stripped of everything -- authority, finance, direct elections."

Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the city's legislature, Viktor Testov, told reporters, "We need to gather and consult lawyers, so that we understand how to act further and whether a special session should be convened."

The move comes after lawmakers in the Sverdlovsk region on April 3 passed a bill under which the mayor in the regional capital, Yekaterinburg, will be chosen by the city council from a list of candidates prepared by a commission -- a move that has met resistance from Roizman and protests by residents of the Urals city.

Roizman has blasted the legislation, which was submitted by regional Governor Yevgeny Kuvaishev, saying the abolition of direct elections would deal a blow to democracy and hurt the city's interests.

He also said it will be used by the authorities loyal to the Kremlin to "appoint" a pliant mayor.

Critics say that President Vladimir Putin has rolled back democracy and tightened Kremlin control over electoral politics over about 18 years as president or prime minister.

Roizman, who was elected mayor in 2013, is one of a very few regional or local officials who have openly criticized Putin and praised opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

His position is already largely ceremonial, as most executive powers in Yekaterinburg belong to the head of the city administration, Aleksandr Yakob.

Roizman had called for a boycott of the March 18 presidential election, saying the polls were not free or fair.

Putin was reelected by a landslide in the vote that critics say was marred by fraud and what international observers said was the lack of a genuine choice.

With reporting by TASS and