Digest of Russian media
More than 100,000 Russians have given their signatures to support the only anti-war candidate in the upcoming presidential election
February 6, 2024
On December 26, politician Boris Nadezhdin applied to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to participate in the March Russian presidential election. Though political opposition has long been suppressed in Russia, Nadezhdin advocated ending the war in Ukraine and was running on the slogan “Putin needs to go.”

One month later, more than 105,000 signatures supporting Nadezhdin’s bid were submitted to the CEC, which should have been enough to officially register him as a candidate. According to the Telegram channel Mozhem Povtorit (“we can have another go”), Nadezhdin said that initially he did not believe he would be allowed to collect signatures and did not expect so much support.

“I think it’s not even about me. It’s just a huge demand for peace and change,” he said.

Signatures in support of the only anti-war candidate were collected all over the country. Sometimes it took several hours for people to reach the front of the line to sign, but they still went out and waited.

“Many people come from the suburbs, and some people say they walk for a whole hour from some mountains there, then they take a bus. People are making an effort. This is why, of course, we are trying so hard to make sure that every signature stays. People start coming early in the morning, we open at 10:30 AM, and people keep coming continuously until 9:00 PM. We have no time to rest,” said Inessa, who collects signatures for Nadezhdin, in an interview with TV Rain.

According to Radio Liberty, the collection of signatures in Yakutsk took place in a cold of minus 40 degrees Celsius. In Yekaterinburg, where the temperature was also below zero, people waited in line for about an hour. Volunteers treated people to hot tea.

Despite the difficulties, people were happy about the lines. While they waited their turn, there was time to chat with like-minded people.

“I haven’t been so happy about lines in a long time... People were walking around searching [for where they were collecting signatures], asking why there were no signs,” a woman who signed up for the Nadezhdin in Karelia Region told the Daily Karelia media.

The Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe published letters from its readers explaining why they put their name down for Nadezhdin. For many of them, it was the only way to protest the current regime, in particular to advocate an end to the war in Ukraine.

“I’m from Saratov, I work as a teacher. I signed for Nadezhdin because I am against the war. It’s important for me to at least express my position in this way,” wrote a reader of Novaya Gazeta Europe.

A family from Krasnoyarsk set up a signature collection point right in their apartment. One of the initiators, Viktoria, whose name was changed by journalists of the Russian news outlet 7x7, has been trying for two years to get her son out of Ukraine. For her, Nadezhdin represents hope for an end to the war.

“Right now, it’s not about the candidate, but about [the anti-war] idea – he voiced it publicly. We’re collecting signatures not for Nadezhdin, but for the idea. I hear this from all the signatories. He’s the anti-war candidate, I don’t care about the rest. For me, that is the benchmark at this point,” Victoria told 7x7.

Nadezhdin himself estimates that only 12% of those who put their signatures down are voting specifically for him. The rest are voting for change at the top and peace. However, this does not bother him. In his view, he found himself “in the right place at the right time.” He feels the support of his potential voters and will keep doing his job, he said.

“Politicians often go crazy, they think they’re sent by God, a messiah. In that sense, I’m a completely simple guy. I’m well aware of who I am. Basically, I’m not any kind of hero. [Boris] Nemtsov was charismatic, handsome, while I am nothing that special,” says Nadezhdin.

Some of those standing in lines were born during Putin’s presidency and have never seen another government.

“For me, as for someone born during Putin’s second term, this election is basically the first time I can legally and safely express my point of view,” said another Novaya Gazeta Europe reader.

Nadezhdin also met with wives of mobilized soldiers and earned their support. These women are demanding that their husbands – many having served in Ukraine for a year without leave – be brought home.

“What have our men done, what have they done wrong by this homeland? My husband has been in the trenches since February [2023]. He hasn’t been rotated out. My brother hasn’t been rotated out either,” said one wife during the meeting with Nadezhdin on the NO.Media iz Rossii (Media from Russia) YouTube channel.

Prominent figures of the Russian opposition forced into exile have also rallied around Nadezhdin. Allies of Alexei Navalny, Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, politician Lyubov Sobol and Alexei Venediktov, the former editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow radio station (who is still in Russia), among others, have called for signatures to support Nadezhdin.

“Sure, Nadezhdin is not my dream candidate at all. My candidate is Navalny. Nadezhdin isn’t even like [Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana] Tikhanovskaya, who was a candidate of the people. He is still a politician with a big and controversial history, but to put my signature down for him – why not? A signature means giving a candidate the right to participate in the election,” said Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally, on the Samoye Vazhnoye (The Main Thing) YouTube channel.

On February 5, the CEC recommended that Nadezhdin should not be allowed to run for president. According to Nadezhdin, the CEC found 15% of the signatures submitted invalid. By law, no more than 5% of signatures can be invalid. Nadezhdin says that he will fight to have the signatures counted and, if they are not, intends to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Not everyone who put their name down for Nadezhdin believes in his success, but they still did something to support him. In their opinion, it was an opportunity to act on their conscience and the most they can do at the moment for a peaceful change of power in the country.

“Of course, I understand the hopelessness of the situation, but I decided to sign anyway – it’s a small chance for change. I’m glad I made my small contribution: at least I’ll know I didn’t stand aside and did everything I could – I signed myself and asked my friends,” Oleg, a signatory for Nadezhdin, told Holod media.

For some people, the lines at signature collection points provided hope. As Holod quotes Anton from Yekaterinburg, who also signed for Nadezhdin, many people around him were apathetic, so he had not expected to see crowds of supporters of the anti-war candidate.

“I too see the streams of negativity constantly being broadcast from everywhere, and I understand people’s internal apathy. So, I was sincerely surprised to see multi-hour lines at Nadezhdin’s headquarters: people not giving up, smiling, believing in change. That instills faith,” Oleg told Holod journalists.
  • Sofia Sorochinskaia

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