Navalny’s widow calls for Russia election day gatherings on March 17 to show dismay with Putin

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses the European Union's parliament on Wednesday Feb. 28, 2024 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The grief-stricken widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny implored the 27-nation bloc to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The legislature often interrupted her speech with applause and lauded her efforts to keep the memory of Navalny alive. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses the European Union’s parliament on Wednesday Feb. 28, 2024 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The grief-stricken widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny implored the 27-nation bloc to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The legislature often interrupted her speech with applause and lauded her efforts to keep the memory of Navalny alive. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

The widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison three weeks ago, called on his supporters on Wednesday to join a protest of this month’s presidential election that Navalny devised shortly before his still-unexplained death.

Yulia Navalnaya asked Russians opposed to President Vladimir Putin to get in line at voting stations on March 17, the last and main day of voting.

Putin is certain to win a fifth term in office, potentially extending his rule to 2030, in the election that includes only token opponents.

Navalnaya acknowledged that in a video message on X, formerly Twitter, saying “Putin will imagine any result that he likes, even 80, even 180%.”

But the gathering “will help millions of people see like-minded people and realize that we are not alone, we are surrounded by people who are also against war, against corruption and against lawlessness,” she said.

“We need to use election day to show that we exist and there are many of us, we are actual, living, real people and we are against Putin. … What to do next is up to you. You can vote for any candidate except Putin. You could ruin your ballot,” Navalnaya said.

Navalny had floated the noontime concept on Feb. 1, saying it was a “completely legal and safe” way to protest and that authorities would have no way of countering it. Mass protest actions in Russia have become effectively impossible under Putin’s intensifying crackdown on dissent and criticism in recent years.

Navalny was reported dead on Feb. 16. Authorities said that he became ill after a walk at his prison colony, but have otherwise given no details. Navalny had been imprisoned since returning to Moscow in early 2021 from Germany, where he had been recuperating from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

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