Kremlin Critic Navalny Urges Nationwide Protests on Putin’s Birthday

  • Opposition leader plans rallies in 80 cities including Moscow
  • Navalny jailed for 20 days for organizing illegal gatherings

How Putin Became the Symbol of Russian Power

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny urged his supporters to turn out for nationwide protests on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday Saturday after he was jailed for 20 days for organizing illegal demonstrations.

Navalny has drawn thousands of people to a series of campaign rallies in cities across Russia recently in support of his bid to run for president in March, after inspiring the largest anti-government protests in at least five years.

“Let Putin listen and go into well-deserved retirement,” Navalny said in a message from prison posted on his Facebook account on Wednesday. “He’s been in power for 18 years, which is long enough.”

The anti-corruption activist has announced his candidacy for next year’s presidential elections that would almost certainly pit him against Putin, who’s expected to seek a record fourth term. Officials say Navalny is barred from running because of a fraud conviction that he’s dismissed as politically motivated.

Putin Wednesday said he hasn’t yet decided whether he will run but that he expected candidates to announce in November or December.

Navalny, who got enough votes to nearly force a run-off against a Putin ally in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, came to prominence as a key organizer of mass protests that erupted over alleged ballot-rigging in 2011-2012. The protests were the biggest since Putin came to power almost two decades ago.

The opposition leader has called for protests in more than 80 cities on Saturday, including Moscow and Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

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