Navalny’s widow takes up his call for big Russian election day protest

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Navalnaya took up her husband’s call.

“This is a very simple and safe action, it cannot be prohibited, and it will help millions of people see like-minded people and realise that we are not alone,” she said. “We are surrounded by people who are also against war, against corruption and against lawlessness.”

The stakes are high for both the opposition and the Kremlin.

If the “Noon Against Putin” action fizzles, it will be a blow to Navalnaya’s hopes of taking on her husband’s mantle, even though she is based outside Russia, and showing that opposition to the Kremlin is still alive.

But if people heed the call, it could turn into a big rolling protest across Russia’s 11 time zones and present a dilemma for the authorities, as police would have no obvious legal grounds to disperse people standing in line to vote.

Putin, in power since the last day of 1999 as president or prime minister, is assured of winning six more years in power. Two would-be challengers who spoke out against the Ukraine war were disqualified from the election on technical grounds and none of the three remaining candidates is critical of Putin. The Kremlin says he will win because he commands genuine support across the country, with opinion poll ratings around 80%.

Two years into the war, Putin’s leading opponents are dead, in jail, or outside the country. Navalnaya called the elections “a complete fiction and a fake”.

“What to do next? The choice is yours. You can vote for any candidate except Putin,” she said. “You can ruin the ballot, you can write ‘Navalny’ in big letters on it. And even if you don’t see the point in voting at all, you can just come and stand at the polling station, and then turn around and go home.”

Having survived a poisoning attempt in 2020, Navalny, who was 47 when he died, was serving sentences of more than 30 years on fraud, extremism and other charges that he said were trumped up to silence him.

The Kremlin has portrayed Navalny and his supporters as lawbreakers and tools of the West, acting to destabilise Russia. It has denied Navalnaya’s accusations that Putin had him killed.

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