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Navalny widow urges Russians to join election day protest

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has called on Russians to join an election day protest on 17 March to vote against President Vladimir Putin or spoil their ballots.

In a YouTube video, she said she had drawn hope from the huge crowds that turned out last week for the funeral of her husband, who died in an Arctic penal colony on 16 February, and who since then have submerged his grave in a sea of flowers.

She urged people to join the 17 March action that Mr Navalny, Russia’s best known opposition figure, had called for shortly before he died.

His idea was that people could register a protest, without any risk of arrest, by all turning out en masse at the same time on election day in cities across the country.

“We need to use the election day to show that we exist and there are many of us.

“We are real, living people, and we are against Putin.

“You need to come to the voting station on the same day and at the same time – 17 March at noon,” Ms Navalnaya said.

“What to do next? The choice is yours. You can vote for any candidate except Putin. 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.”

Since her husband’s death, Ms Navalnaya has promised to continue his work and made several high-profile political appearances in the West, including meeting US President Joe Biden and addressing the Munich Security Conference and the European Parliament.

Alexei Navalny was serving a lengthy jail sentence when he died

The Kremlin has strongly denied accusations by Ms Navalnaya that Russian President Vladimir Putin had Mr Navalny killed.

Mr Navalny’s death certificate said he died of natural causes at the age of 47.

Russian authorities said he died of “natural causes” but his team and some Western leaders have accused President Putin of being directly responsible for his death.

Mr Putin, who famously never referred to the opposition leader by name, has remained silent on his death.

The opposition leader shot to prominence through his anti-corruption campaigning, exposing what he said was rampant corruption at the top of Mr Putin’s administration.

He was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia after being treated in Germany for a poisoning attack he suffered while campaigning against the Russian leader in Siberia months earlier.

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