Boris Nadezhdin: Putin’s would-be opponent vows to end Ukraine war

Boris Nadezhdin: Putin's would-be opponent vows to end Ukraine war

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A would-be challenger to Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would end the war in Ukraine on day one of his presidency.

Boris Nadezhdin told the BBC he was unlikely to win 17 March elections but Mr Putin would not last six more years.

But he offered a vision of a Russia without the incumbent, where conflicts would end and relations were restored.

“Putin has made a lot of mistakes, not just with the special military operation,” Mr Nadezhdin says.

Mr Putin has headed Russia since the beginning of the millennium, his rule becoming increasingly authoritarian.

He has won several presidential elections comfortably, but in recent years no serious opposition has been allowed. The Kremlin maintains that elections are fair and he is genuinely popular.

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny, once seen as a major threat to the president’s authority, has been in jail since 2021.

Other opponents have been assassinated, jailed, or forced into exile.

But Mr Nadezhdin, a local councillor for more than three decades, is seen as a former insider of the regime whose criticism of the Kremlin has so far been tolerated.

His team says he has gathered more than 100,000 signatures, enough to stand as a candidate.

He believes he will be allowed to stand in the elections, although unconfirmed sources say anti-war candidates will be barred.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Mr Nadezhdin was not seen as a rival but would be allowed to stand if he met the necessary conditions.

The veteran politician says he has been criticising Mr Putin for the last 10 years.

“He practically destroyed the key institutions of the modern state of Russia. My job will be to restore these institutions,” said Mr Nadezhdin.

“My first task will be to stop the conflict with Ukraine, and then to restore normal relations between Russia and the Western community.”

Mr Nadezhdin, who name is similar to “nadezhda”, the Russian word for hope, said he had the support of “dozens of millions of people”.

“There is a Russian saying – your appetite comes when you start eating,” he says.

Queue for signatures at Boris Nadezhdin's St Petersburg HQ

EPA

“Two weeks ago, nobody could believe we would collect hundreds of thousands of signatures.

“My aim is to change Russia. I may not be president on 17 March but I should have the best result.”

He said that at the start of the war only 15-20% of people were against it but now the “majority of Russians” wanted peace.

He said he aimed to make Russia a “great, peaceful and free country”.

“I am absolutely sure that Putin will not rule Russia six years more, because more and more people understand he is dragging Russia along the track of militarism, authoritarianism, isolation,” Mr Nadezhdin says.

Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman