Putin critic urges big turnout at opposition rally

Alexei Navalny said he wanted to send a message to President Vladimir Putin that he could not stay in power indefinitely. — AFP pic
Alexei Navalny said he wanted to send a message to President Vladimir Putin that he could not stay in power indefinitely. — AFP pic

MOSCOW, Feb 25 — Russia’s most prominent opposition leader today called for a mass turnout at a weekend rally marking five years since the assassination of politician Boris Nemtsov.

Alexei Navalny said he wanted to send a message to President Vladimir Putin that he could not stay in power indefinitely.

The Saturday rally will be the first big action by the opposition since Putin unveiled proposals in January to change the constitution, which analysts saw as beginning preparations for succession when his term ends in 2024.

However, many believe Putin—in charge for the last two decades—is keen on finding ways to maintain his status without openly violating the constitutional ban on maximum terms.

“The Kremlin is going to look at how many people attend the Nemtsov March,” said Navalny, who for years has investigated high-level corruption and has never hidden his ambition to oust Putin from power.

“On this depends how brazenly they will pursue the operation to keep Putin in power. On this depends the future of political prisoners,” he wrote on Twitter.

The demonstration is expected to be the first major street action by the opposition since a succession of protests in Moscow last summer against the conditions of local elections, which were dispersed by security forces.

However local officials have given permission for Saturday’s protest to go ahead.

One of the organisers of the demonstration, opposition campaigner Ilya Yashin, said in a video message that demonstrators would demand that the organisers of Nemtsov’s killing are brought to justice and also an end to the persecution of Putin’s opponents.

“There are moments when you can’t just sit at home... We will demand a change in power. Putin should not rule for ever. It is time to remind him of that,” he said.

Nemtsov—one of Putin’s most charismatic opponents who had served in the administration of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin—was shot and killed in central Moscow on February 27, 2015.

In 2017, a court found a former security force officer from Chechnya guilty of his murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Four other men were found guilty of involvement in the killing.

But Nemtsov’s family and allies insist the authorities have failed to bring the masterminds to justice. — AFP

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