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Freed Putin critic Navalny says to keep organising protests
April 11, 2017 / 8:52 AM / 6 months ago

Freed Putin critic Navalny says to keep organising protests

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a hearing after being detained at the protest against corruption and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at the Tverskoi court in Moscow, Russia March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/Files

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday he would press ahead with organising more anti-Kremlin demonstrations despite being jailed after orchestrating the biggest protests against the authorities in years.

Navalny, who wants to run against Vladimir Putin for president next year, was speaking a day after being freed from jail where he spent 15 days for his role in big nationwide protests last month which ended with over 1,000 arrests.

“I of course assess the March 26 action to be very successful,” said Navalny, addressing his supporters in an online broadcast.

“It was the first simultaneous action in towns since the 1990s. Despite the fact that the authorities tried to frighten everyone ... tens of thousands took to the streets. We need to continue.”

The demonstrations buoyed the liberal opposition’s morale a year before a presidential election, but angered the Kremlin which dismissed them as an illegal provocation.

They were awkward for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with many protesters calling for his resignation after Navalny accused him of amassing a fortune that outstripped his salary.

Medvedev says the allegations are politically-motivated “nonsense.”

INTERNET VERSUS STATE TV

Putin, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape for the last 17 years, has not yet said whether he will run for what would be a fourth presidential term next year but is widely expected to do so.

For now, opinion polls suggest Navalny has little chance of unseating the Russian leader, who enjoys high ratings.

There is also a question mark over whether Navalny will be allowed to run in the election after a court in February gave him a suspended prison sentence for embezzlement in a case Navalny said was politically-motivated.

Navalny says he is still entitled to run however and intends to do so.

In the meantime, he hopes to use the Internet to channel public discontent over official corruption and is setting up regional offices to promote his campaign.

He noted on Tuesday that a mini documentary he made detailing his allegations against Medvedev had so far garnered more than 18 million views online, but said state TV, which hews closely to the Kremlin’s line, remained a more powerful tool for influencing public opinion than the Internet.

Many voters remained ignorant of official wrongdoing, he complained.

“The truth is that nobody knows anything,” said Navalny.

Editing by Christian Lowe/Alexander Winning

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