MOSCOW – A Kremlin spokesperson dismissed on Monday a nationwide wave of protests organized by a Russian opposition leader, saying they were not a threat to the president’s re-election or leadership.
Alexei Navalny, a prominent figure in the Russian opposition who has been banned from taking part in the upcoming presidential elections, was on Sunday arrested after appearing at one of the 100 demonstrations he called to urge voters to boycott the vote.
When questioned during a press conference whether Sunday’s wave of protests represented a threat to President Vladimir Putin’s chances of reelection, spokesperson Dimitri Peskov replied with a categorical “no.”
He said he found it “hard to believe anyone could question Putin’s absolute leadership of Russia’s public opinion” and insisted that “anyone would have a hard time competing with him.”
Close to 350 people were arrested on Sunday in various Russian cities after backing Navalny’s call to demonstrate in support of his boycott of the March 18 presidential elections.
Peskov said some of the demonstrations had legal authorizations, but others did not.
Navalny was arrested as he marched in central Moscow’s illegal demonstration but was released hours later.
“We have proven that not all Russia has given up on (real) elections and come to terms with a monarchy. There are many of us and we will be heard,” Navalny posted on his official Twitter account.
Russian courts had rejected his candidacy to the presidency as he has a criminal record, but Navalny has always argued that the charges were politically motivated.
Last year, two days of unauthorized opposition marches ended with hundreds of demonstrators being arrested mainly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.