TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Supporters of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gathered in Moscow on Saturday, calling for President Vladimir Putin to quit and let Navalny run in an election.
Under gray skies and intermittent rain, around a thousand Navalny supporters gathered in central Moscow’s Pushkin Square and chanted “Russia will be free” and “Russia without Putin”.
Navalny, who is serving a 20-day jail term for violating rules on public meetings, called the rally in Moscow and other cities across Russia to coincide with Putin’s 65th birthday, Reuters reported.
Putin, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape for almost 18 years, is widely expected to run for what would be his fourth term in March.
Navalny hopes to run too, despite the central election commission declaring him ineligible due to a suspended prison sentence he says was politically-motivated.
One of the protesters held a homemade poster of Putin sitting on a mountain of banknotes wearing a crown with the legend: “Happy Birthday you little thief!”
Others carried copies of the Russian constitution and posters citing their right to protest, some waved Russian flags, and a few carried inflatable yellow ducks, a jokey reference to the fact that Navalny accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of owning a lavish estate with a duck house.
Medvedev called the allegations against him politically-motivated nonsense.
The size of Saturday’s Moscow rally and others across Russia looked more modest than Navalny-backed mass protests in March and June which were widely recognized to be some of the biggest since 2012.
A major rally was planned later on Saturday in Putin’s home town of St Petersburg.
Many of the Moscow protesters were teenagers or in their twenties.
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Tasnim News Agency