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Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday sent a car-load of complaints to court contesting the results of Moscow's mayoral election, as President Vladimir Putin was due to attend the inauguration of his ally as city chief.
Incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a Kremlin ally who barely avoided a run-off in Sunday's closer-than-expected vote, is due to be sworn in for a new term Thursday evening in front of hundreds of guests led by Putin.
The ceremony at one of the capital's landmark parks will take place after the Moscow election commission refused to conduct a partial recount demanded by Navalny, Sobyanin's main rival in the election.
Navalny said his team had documented evidence that the vote was partially rigged in favour of Sobyanin, who was appointed Moscow mayor in 2010 but had called the election before his term was due to end.
According to official results, Sobyanin received 51.3 percent of the vote, but Navalny's team insists the inauguration should be cancelled because according to its data the mayor polled around 49 percent.
On Thursday, Navalny brought some 20 boxes stuffed with what he says is evidence of vote violations to the Moscow city court.
"We believe that the election on the whole should be cancelled because administrative resources have been used," Navalny said, referring to government interference in the poll.
Similar complaints have been filed with three dozen district courts, Navalny's team said.
A spokeswoman for the Moscow city court said it had received a petition from Navalny requesting that the results of the vote be cancelled.
The court has two months to review it, she said.
Navalny, who officially polled a stronger-than-projected 27.2 percent of the vote, insists that election officials helped Sobyanin avoid a run-off by allowing irregularities during at-home voting and at polling stations without observers.
The election commission has dismissed the claims.
In a meeting with Sobyanin and other newly elected regional chiefs, Putin earlier this week praised the elections that took place in Moscow and elsewhere across Russia on Sunday.
"The legitimacy of these polls, their transparency, their accountability were on such a level which we have probably never before had in our country," he said.
Independent observers said they had registered vote irregularities, although not as serious as those witnessed in previous polls.
Claims of wholesale violations during 2011 parliamentary polls prompted tens of thousands to take to the streets of Moscow to protest against the ruling party United Russia and Putin himself.
Analysts say Navalny, who shot to prominence during those protests, was allowed to run in Moscow to give the vote a veneer of legitimacy.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Navalny's result "significant" but said he had yet to prove he was a real politician.
"His transitory result is not evidence of serious political experience and does not say anything about him as a serious politician," he told online portal slon.ru.
In a departure from tradition, Sobyanin's swearing-in will take place in a museum at the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park, one of the city's top landmarks.
In the run-up to last year's presidential elections, authorities bussed thousands of people for a pro-Putin rally at the park at the peak of the anti-Kremlin demonstrations in the winter of 2011-2012.
According to a notice posted on Navalny's blog, a major state company has been told to make sure its employees attend a concert in honour of the inauguration.
Sobyanin's spokeswoman Gulnara Penkova denied that people were forced to attend the swearing-in en masse.
The Vedomosti daily said in an editorial that election officials had chosen to ignore reports of violations after Putin declared the polls legitimate and transparent.
"The results of the brightest and most unpredictable political campaign in recent years -- Moscow mayoral polls -- were being prepared in an obscure, semi-secretive way," it said.
Analysts saw the election as a key breakthrough for Navalny but also as a sign of alarming political apathy in Moscow, with turnout at just 32 percent.