Aleksei A. Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, has urged his supporters to go to the polls in next month’s regional elections, even though landslide victories for the Kremlin are a near certainty across the country.
In a blog post, Mr Navalny on Monday called on Russians to vote for anyone on the ballot who is not a member of President Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia party. It was important, he said, that Russians continue to participate in the elections because “sooner or later they will be conducted relatively freely in Russia.”
“We have to win them,” Mr. Navalny continued. “That won’t happen if we convince ourselves that elections are meaningless and get used to not participating in them.”
Although the Kremlin has for years barred almost all well-known opposition figures from showing up at the polls, Mr Navalny’s coordinated protest voting strategy of coalescing around a particular candidate has shown in the previous elections that an opposition movement could continue to influence political events. This time around, he said, the crackdown had reached such an intensity that the strategy no longer made sense – but there were still opposition candidates on the regional ballots who deserved support. .
Mr Navalny’s appeal came a day after protesters around the world, many of whom were Russian nationals, gathered to rally against Mr Putin’s grip on power, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Moscow and the continued detention of Russian state dissidents, including Mr. Navalny.
The protests, which drew crowds in cities across Europe and Australia, were organized by Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation in coordination with local groups and timed to commemorate the third anniversary of his poisoning.
In Berlin, a small crowd of people marched towards the Brandenburg Gate in the center of the city from the hospital where Mr Navalny was treated for his near-fatal exposure to a military-grade nerve agent. They carried placards and posters denouncing Mr. Putin and expressing their support for Ukraine.
“I think it’s an important part of our job here to talk to people in Europe and in the West,” said Leonid Volkov, Mr Navalny’s longtime chief of staff.
Still, turnout in Berlin, home to a large Russian immigrant population and has become a hub for Russian exiles, was lower than others had hoped.
“I feel like we still have quite a few supporters, but many are too exhausted,” said Daria Dudley, a Russian national who lives in Berlin and has organized protests, including Sunday’s rally, with Demokrati- JA, a Russian-speaking anti-war. group based in Germany.
Russians who attended Sunday’s rally said they felt a responsibility to speak out about the relative safety they felt in Germany, particularly in support of opposition figures who are jailed.
“We – all people of Russian descent – are at least responsible for what is happening,” said Natasha Ivanova, 49, who is Russian but has lived in Germany for decades. After Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014, she said she could not continue to “watch quietly”, adding: “I will not stop talking because of fear”.