Photo: Alexander Nemenov Agence France-Presse “If Putin wins and I come second, the country will become completely different […], because I will be someone supported by tens of millions of people,” hopes Boris Nadejdine, who says he entered the race in October because no figure more famous than him has taken the plunge.
Marina Lapenkova – Agence France-Presse to Dolgoprudny
Boris Nadezhdine, the only opponent of the offensive in Ukraine to try to register his candidacy for the Russian presidential election in March, declared Wednesday in an interview with AFP that he hoped that the election would mark the “beginning of the end” for Vladimir Putin.
Little known to the general public, this veteran of political life has aroused unexpected enthusiasm in recent days.
Tens of thousands of Russians mobilized to sign the petition necessary to register his candidacy for the vote which will take place over three days, from March 15 to 17.
He has few illusions, as the re-election of Putin, in power since 2000, seems obvious.
“I know it will be hard to beat Putin on March 17 of this year. The force is on his side, the security system is on his side, and a significant number of people who have never seen anything other than Putin on TV are on his side,” says this 60-year-old man, with a goatee and with close-cropped gray hair.
“But I hope that March 17 will perhaps mark the end, the beginning of the end of the Putin era,” he adds, receiving AFP in his modest home, on the second floor of a Soviet building from the 1980s, in Dolgoproudny, a small town 20 km from Moscow, where he is a local elected official.
“If Putin wins and I come second, the country will become completely different […], because I will be someone supported by tens of millions of people”, still hopes the opponent, who says having entered the race in October because no figure more famous than him took the plunge.
According to him, if some 120,000 Russians signed his petition of support, it is because a large segment of the population wants change.
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And signing in favor of his candidacy is a legal way to protest in a country where a merciless repression has fallen on the Kremlin's critics, particularly since the assault on Ukraine began two years ago.
“I am the only candidate still in the running who systematically criticizes President Putin's policies and who is in favor of ending the special military operation,” he said, using the euphemism required for mention the offensive in Ukraine, the terms “war” and “invasion” being punishable by prison.
“My candidacy gives people a unique opportunity to legally protest against current policy,” notes the former advisor to Boris Nemtsov, an opponent assassinated in 2015. “I did not expect such support, imagine the support I would have if they let me speak on television! »
“I think that would be the only real reason why the authorities could try not to register me” as a candidate, adds the man who says he has known Vladimir Putin since 1997 and opposed him since 2003 and the arrest of ex-oligarch and opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Mr. Nadejdine has until January 31 to submit at least 100,000 initials of support to the Electoral Commission, but the latter can reject his candidacy if it considers these lists of support to be erroneous or falsified.
With regard to Ukraine, the opponent describes the Russian offensive as a “nightmare”, seeing it as a “personal decision” by Putin who “concentrates too much power”.< /p>
The opponent assures that as president, he would stop the conflict, negotiate a solution with Kiev as well as with the West, put an end to the “militarization” of Russia and release “all political prisoners”.
However, he does not comment on the future of the Ukrainian territories, approximately 20% of the country, of which Putin has claimed annexation.
“I am participating in the elections to make Russia a peaceful and free country, a country where people are not imprisoned for their beliefs […], a country which does not try to enlarge its territory with its army,” he insisted.
Boris Nadejdine says he does not have confidence in the electoral system, but notes that the more citizens vote, the more difficult the result will be to falsify.
“I don’t know any other good way than elections to change a country, to change power,” he said, judging that “revolutions […], coups d’état, are worse.”
Asked why he has not been targeted by the Russian repressive machine, Mr. Nadezhdine says he does not know, but assumes that the Kremlin does not see him as a threat.< /p>
“I think they know who I am, and apparently don't consider me a terrible threat. But I can only guess,” he said.