The ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party originally announced that it would field Andrei Lugovoi, the former KGB agent accused in Britain of the 2006 murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko. The party then withdrew his candidacy after deciding Mr. Lugovoi is too valuable in the State Duma, where he is already a deputy.
"These elections are a sign that Russians have become tired and bored with [Putin-era] 'managed democracy,' " says Pyotr Romanov, an expert with the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency. "Real politics is returning to our life ... real active politics, rather than the window-dressing we've had up until now."
At the center of attention are multiple scandals over the allegedly botched preparations for the Olympic games, including complaints about corruption, mass dislocation of local residents, serious environmental worries, and other concerns (detailed here).
"The people of Sochi are suffering terribly over the Olympics; it's a disaster," says Mr. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and leader of the Solidarnost anti-Kremlin coalition. "Over 2,000 people have been evicted from their homes to make way for Olympic facilities, and there is no compensation for them so far."