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Siberian Nurse leads surprising opposition movement

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Siberian nurse Natalia Avdeyeva stood in a queue, determined to register her protest against Moscow’s prolonged Ukraine offensive by endorsing an unexpected contender in the upcoming presidential election.

Boris Nadezhdin, a former liberal lawmaker who transitioned into political circles accepted by the Kremlin, has emerged as an unconventional advocate for “peace” in the lead-up to the vote.

Thousands of Russians, both within the country and abroad, are fervently adding their signatures to support his bid to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the March ballot.

Avdeyeva, explaining her decision to back Nadezhdin, asserted, “I want there to be some kind of alternative.

All the others (candidates) have the same agenda.” This sentiment echoed among many in the queues, reflecting a desire for a distinctive voice against the backdrop of the ongoing military operations.

Nadezhdin, whose name carries the Russian word for “hope,” has become a symbol for those opposing Putin’s decision to deploy troops to Ukraine. In an uncommon display of criticism, he labeled the military intervention a “fatal mistake,” a sentiment that resonated with the crowd gathered in Moscow.

To qualify for the presidential race, Nadezhdin needs 100,000 signatures by the end of January; his website reported almost 85,000 by Monday evening.

Despite the slim chance of victory, the influx of support underscores a growing dissatisfaction with the current political trajectory.

As 37-year-old music teacher Konstantin Filin observed, “Nadezhdin is apparently the person that wants to stop” the conflict with Ukraine, adding a note of optimism amidst the crowd’s commitment to break from their comfort zones.

In a country where dissent is met with severe consequences, Nadezhdin’s outspoken criticism of Putin’s decisions stands out.

His statements, such as “Putin sees the world in the past and is dragging Russia into the past,” challenge the norm, eliciting surprise and admiration from those gathered.

The enthusiasm for Nadezhdin is not without obstacles. Putin, seeking a fifth Kremlin term at 71, has maintained a firm grip on power since 2000. The upcoming vote occurs against the backdrop of Russia’s seismic offensive, accompanied by a notable crackdown on dissent.

Despite the odds, thousands are queuing to support Nadezhdin, seizing the opportunity to express their discontent publicly. The Moscow headquarters echoes the sentiment with its slogan: “Push the door into the future.”

All other candidates set to face Putin have declared support for the Ukraine campaign, making Nadezhdin a rare voice against the prevailing stance.

City councillor and pro-peace politician Yekaterina Duntsova, denied registration, urged her supporters to rally behind Nadezhdin.

Maria Feldman, a 20-year-old artist in the Moscow line, echoed this sentiment, stating, “I trust her a lot, and I think that now, he (Nadezhdin) is the best choice of all. He is for freedom of speech and a peaceful sky over our heads.”

While Nadezhdin once held a seat in Russia’s lower house of parliament, his current alignment with Kremlin circles has raised eyebrows. However, for those queuing in Moscow, supporting Nadezhdin is a symbolic act—a chance to publicly articulate their dissent and position amidst a political landscape dominated by Putin.

As 42-year-old lawyer Pavel, who declined to provide his last name, emphasized, “It is a possibility to show the state and those who count our votes our position. In any case, our signatures will be noticed. I think that’s important.”

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