LONDON (Reuters) -Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has called on Russians to stage daily protests against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, depicting President Vladimir Putin as an “obviously insane tsar.”
Navalny called for protests across the country and abroad to signal that not all Russians support the war and show solidarity with the thousands of people detained in anti-war protests in Russia since last week’s invasion.
“We cannot wait even a day longer. Wherever you are. In Russia, Belarus or on the other side of the planet. Go out onto the main square of your city every weekday at 19.00 and at 14.00 at weekends and on holidays,” he said in a statement published on Twitter by his spokesperson.
Navalny said Russia wanted to be a nation of peace but few people would call it that now.
“Let’s at least not become a nation of frightened silent people. Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane tsar,” he said.
“I am from the USSR. I was born there. And the main phrase from there – from my childhood – was ‘fight for peace’. I call on everyone to come out on to the streets and fight for peace… Putin is not Russia.”
Navalny, the most prominent of Putin’s opponents, was jailed last year after his return from Germany following treatment for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia. He said he was sentenced on trumped-up charges.
Russia denied carrying out such an attack and dismisses suggestions that Navalny’s treatment was politically motivated. It describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”.
Navalny’s activist movement had already called for a campaign of civil disobedience to protest against Russia’s invasion, but police have cracked down on demonstrations.
Some 6,840 people have been detained at anti-war protests since the invasion began on Feb. 24, according to the OVD-Info protest-monitoring group.
Navalny, 45, has been the biggest thorn in the Kremlin’s side for over a decade, persistently detailing what he says is high-level corruption and mobilising crowds of young protesters in a country where the opposition has no meaningful power.
But his appeal to Russians outside big cities appears limited and the opposition’s ability to challenge Putin has been hampered by the authorities’ moves to stifle dissent in the past few years and by the state’s tight grip on the media.
Many opposition figures are now in exile after being designated by the authorities as “foreign agents”, a legal designation used for what authorities say are foreign-funded organisations engaged in political activity.
Opposition unity has often been undermined by internal policy differences and squabbling among factions, including during mass protests in 2011-12 that brought Navalny to prominence but faded after a police crackdown.
(Reporting by Reuters)