Putin’s victory is seen as inevitable, but Boris Nadezhdin’s opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine has won him significant support.
Prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nadezhdin has submitted the necessary documents to register as a candidate in Russia’s presidential election in March.
The 60-year-old local councilor who vowed to end the war in Russia war in Ukrainesaid on Wednesday that it had collected more than 100,000 signatures of support from 40 regions and submitted them and other documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC), which is technically enough to challenge President Vladimir Putin.
Election officials will then verify the authenticity of signatures submitted by Nadezhdin and other potential candidates and announce next month who will join Putin on the ballot for the March 15-17 election.
The electorate has in the past discovered what it claimed to be irregularities in the signatures or documents collected by certain candidates and disqualified them.
Putin, who will run as an independent rather than a candidate for the ruling United Russia party, needs 300,000 signatures but has already collected more than 3.5 million, according to his supporters.
In December, the 71-year-old outgoing president announced his decision to seek to extend his mandate. He is almost certain to win a fifth presidential term, extending his 24 years at the helm of Russia, including eight years as prime minister.
Nadezhdin, who criticized the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine as a “fatal mistake,” was born in Soviet-ruled Uzbekistan to a Jewish mother who was a music teacher and a physicist father.
He has spent the last 30 years in Russian politics, working as an advisor in the town of Dolgoprudny, near Moscow. He will run as a candidate for the Civic Initiative party.
He rose to fame with his calls to end the war, attracting crowds of Russians across the country eager to add their signature to his bid to win elections.
After a series of heating outages across Russia during an unusually cold winter, Nadezhdin said earlier this month that the country would be able to spend more on its citizens if it did not invest so much money in the army.
He called the war “catastrophic” in an interview with the AFP news agency and said he wanted to “free political prisoners” in Russia.
“It’s my pride,” he said of the signatures collected, while thanking his supporters in a statement published on his official Telegram account.
“The work of thousands of people without sleep for several days. The result of queuing in the cold is in the cards. It will be very difficult for the CEC and the authorities to say: ‘I didn’t notice the elephant in the room’!”
He also posted a video from CEC headquarters showing papers containing the signatures stacked on tables ready for officials to check, describing which region each stack came from.
Nadezhdin’s candidacy raises the question of how far the Kremlin would let him go, at a time when speaking out against the conflict is politically difficult, often landing his critics in prison.
Putin has not allowed real electoral opposition during his 24 years of rule, with rivals such as opposition leader Alexei Navalny behind bars.
Navalny’s wife, Yuliya, signed her name in support of Nadezhdin in a symbolic photo published by the jailed critic’s ally.