Yulia Navalnaya, Russian opposition leader’s widow, urges West not to negotiate with Putin

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said on Tuesday that Vladimir Putin was not the legitimate president of Russia and that she would try to convince world leaders not to negotiate with him.

Putin won 87.3 per cent of the vote and a new six-year term on Sunday in an election which the West said was neither free nor fair. China, India and others congratulated him on his victory.

The Kremlin said the election result showed that an overwhelming majority of Russians had consolidated around Putin.

In a video message, Navalnaya praised the participation of thousands of people across Russia and abroad in a noon protest on Sunday against Putin’s rule.

“We have proved to ourselves and others that Putin is not our president,” Navalnaya said in the clip posted to her late husband’s YouTube channel.

“The election results do not matter.… We will ensure that no one in the world recognizes Putin as the legitimate president. That no one sits down with him at the negotiating table,” she said.

It was not clear where the clip was filmed. Navalnaya, 47, took part in Sunday’s protest action from Berlin.

Shortly before his death in an Arctic penal colony on Feb. 16, Navalny had endorsed the idea of Russians coming out at noon on March 17 to vote against Putin, spoil their ballots or simply register their solidarity with the opposition.

WATCH | Putin wins Russian presidential vote: 

Putin wins election condemned as neither free nor fair

Yulia Navalnaya has vowed to continue her husband’s work. She and Navalny’s supporters say Putin is responsible for his death, a claim denied by the Kremlin.

Putin said on Sunday he had given his assent several days before Navalny’s death to allow him to be exchanged in a prisoner swap, on condition that he never returned to Russia.

Asked about the noon protest, Putin said he could only praise what he said appeared to have been an opposition appeal to people to go and vote.

‘Noon against Putin’

There was no independent tally of how many of Russia’s 114 million voters took part in the “Noon Against Putin” protests.

Reuters journalists in Russia saw an increase in the flow of voters, especially younger people, at noon at some polling stations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, with queues of several hundred people and even thousands.

Some said they were protesting while others said they were simply voting.

Navalnaya said her hopes for the “beautiful Russia of the future” — her husband’s phrase — had been buoyed by the sight of “brave, free, honest people” queuing at the polling stations.

“No intimidation or threats have worked. You are stronger than them,” she said.

However, the election has confirmed Putin’s domination of Russian politics. Russia’s opposition is riven with divisions about strategy and ideology, while Putin’s main surviving opponents are either in jail or in foreign exile.

Navalnaya told her supporters not to despair and urged people to spend 15 minutes a day “fighting the regime.”

“We need a peaceful, free and happy Russia. And we will definitely be able to achieve this if we act together. Don’t give up.”

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