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Navalny calls on voters opposed to Putin’s re-election to vote at midday across Russia

Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has tweeted his support for a proposal that voters wishing to demonstrate their opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin head en masse to polling stations at midday on 17 March, the final day of voting in Russia’s presidential election. 

“Real people standing in line to vote against Putin” would be a powerful symbol against “fake and fraudulent ‘yes’ votes”, Navalny wrote on Thursday, adding that the “witch” who heads Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, would “fix” the votes.

Such a guerrilla protest would be “completely legal and safe”, Navalny stressed, as protestors would be indistinguishable from Putin supporters who happened to be voting at the same time, leaving the authorities powerless to react. 

Public protest in Russia has effectively been illegal since 2014, and can be punishable by up to five years in prison. Navalny argued that merely casting a ballot against Putin was not enough, and that the symbolism of agitation was “more important than voting”.

The public show of support for the idea, which was first proposed by former St. Petersburg Deputy and prominent Kremlin critic in exile Maxim Reznik, followed Navalny’s public call in December for Russians to vote for “anyone but Putin” in March’s election.