Supporters of Russian opposition call for boycott of presidential election
Navalny’s supporters took to the streets in several cities around Russia on Sunday, as part of a campaign to promote the boycott of the election, which they preemptively claim will be rigged.
The 41-year-old figure had earlier called on Russians to defy authorities and stage rallies in support of an active boycott of the presidential election, due on March 18.
Polls show that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose approval ratings tops 80 percent, is on course to easily winning a fourth term in the election. That prospect has angered Navalny’s supporters.
Young people gathered in the main square of the port of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, with other protests taking place in the southern Siberian cities of Novosibirsk, Kurgan, Omsk, Magadan, Kemerovo, and Yakutsk.
Opposition supporters said they expected “thousands” of people to take part in similar demonstrations in 118 towns and cities across Russia. There was no immediate word on whether those protests did occur, however.
Police have already warned against unauthorized protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the two main cities in Russia.
Reports said police had raided Navalny’s headquarters in the Russian capital, citing reports of a bomb, questioning and searching people there.
Navalny, who has organized anti-government demonstrations before, has been imprisoned three times over the past year and charged with breaking the law for organizing unauthorized public meetings and rallies.
Navalny, who was barred from running in the election by the central election commission in December over a corruption conviction, says his exclusion from the vote makes a sham of the ballot.
If President Putin wins the March election, as is projected, he will be in power until 2024.