Thousands protest ending mayoral election in Russian city

Several thousand people have rallied in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city, to protest official plans to cancel direct mayoral elections.

The incumbent mayor, Yevgeny Roizman, attended Monday's rally in the Ural Mountains city, urging public resistance to the regional legislature's plan to have the city mayor appointed by the regional legislature. Provincial lawmakers are to consider the move Tuesday.

Roizman, elected in 2013 for five years, said the abolition of direct elections would deal a blow to democracy and hurt the city's interests.

The 55-year-old Roizman is a rare figure in Russia's officialdom. He has been the only regional official who dared to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin and praise his most vocal critic, opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Roizman's job, however, is largely ceremonial and doesn't involve executive powers.