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Moscow Polling Station Protesters Pay Tribute to Navalny

Moscow Polling Station Protesters Pay Tribute to Navalny

Sunday, 17 March 2024 10:57 AM EDT

Thousands of people turned up at polling stations across Russia on Sunday to take part in what the anti-Kremlin opposition said was a peaceful but symbolic political protest against the re-election of President Vladimir Putin.

In an action called "noon against Putin," Russians who oppose the veteran Kremlin leader went to their local polling station at midday to either spoil their ballot paper or to vote for one of the three candidates standing against Putin, who is widely expected to win by a landslide.

Others had vowed to scrawl the name of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died last month in an Arctic prison, on their voting slip.

Navalny's allies broadcast videos on YouTube of lines of people queuing up at different polling stations across Russia at midday who they said were there to peacefully protest.

Navalny had endorsed the "Noon against Putin" plan in a message on social media facilitated by his lawyers before he died. The independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper called the planned action "Navalny's political testament."

"There is very little hope but if you can do something (like this) you should do it. There is nothing left of democracy," one young woman, who did not give her name and whose face was blurred out by Navalny's team, said at one polling station.

Another young woman at a different polling station, whose identity had been disguised in the same way, said she had voted for the "least dubious" of the three candidates running against Putin.

A male student voting in Moscow told Navalny's channel that people like him who disagreed with the current system needed to go on living their lives regardless.

"History has shown that changes occur at the most unexpected of times," he said.

Despite the protesters - who represent a small fraction of Russia's 114 million voters - Putin is poised to tighten his grip on power in the election that is certain to deliver him a big victory.

PROTEST

The Kremlin casts Navalny's political allies - most of whom are based outside Russia - as dangerous extremists out to destabilize the country on behalf of the West. It says Putin enjoys overwhelming support among ordinary Russians, pointing to opinion polls which put his approval rating above 80%.

With Russia's vast landmass stretching across 11 time zones, protest voters were scattered rather than concentrated into a single mass, making it hard to estimate how many people turned up for the protest event.

The size of the queues at each polling station shown on Navalny's channel ranged from a few dozen people to what looked like several hundred people.

Reuters journalists saw a slight increase in the flow of voters, especially younger people, at noon at some polling stations in Moscow and Yekaterinburg, with queues of several hundred people, and in some places even thousands.

Some said they were protesting though there were few outward signs to distinguish them from ordinary voters.

Leonid Volkov, an exiled Navalny aide who was attacked with a hammer last week in Vilnius, estimated hundreds of thousands of people had come out to polling stations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and other cities.

Reuters could not independently verify that estimate.

At polling stations at Russian diplomatic missions in Australia, Japan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Germany, Britain, hundreds of Russians stood in line at noon.

In Berlin, Yulia, Navalny's widow, showed up at the Russian embassy to take part in the protest event there along with Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokesperson. Other Russians present clapped and chanted her name.

In London, thousands queued in near silence to vote at the Russian embassy.

"We haven't been heard for past 30 years. Nobody listened to us. We moved, we emigrated, and even here, far away from Russia, we feel the consequences of not us not being heard," said voter Natalia Cherednikova.

"This year is so important just to be there for ourselves, even though we all (are) ...fatalistic in terms of the meaning of it and that nobody really cares. It's just for ourselves that we've been here. We have voted. We showed up."

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Newsfront
Queues formed outside Moscow polling stations on Sunday as some voters heeded a call by supporters of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny to cast protest votes in Russia's presidential election.AFP reporters at two polling stations saw larger numbers of voters at noon...
navalny, tribute, polling, russia, election
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2024-57-17
Sunday, 17 March 2024 10:57 AM
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