A Collective ‘No’: Anti-Putin Russians Embrace an Unlikely Challenger

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His surname comes from the Russian word for hope — and for hundreds of thousands of antiwar Russians, that is, improbably enough, what he has become.

Boris B. Nadezhdin is the only candidate running on an antiwar platform with a chance of getting on the ballot to oppose President Vladimir V. Putin in Russia’s presidential election in March. Russians who are against the war have rushed to sign his official petition inside and outside the country, hoping to supply enough signatures by a Jan. 31 deadline for him to succeed in joining the race.

They have braved subzero temperatures in the Siberian city of Yakutsk. They have snaked down the block in Yekaterinburg. They have jumped in place to stay warm in St. Petersburg and flocked to outposts in Berlin, Istanbul and Tbilisi, Georgia.

They know that election officials might bar Mr. Nadezhdin from the ballot, and if he is allowed to run, they know he will never win. They don’t care.

“Boris Nadezhdin is our collective ‘No,’” said Lyosha Popov, a 25-year-old who has been collecting signatures for Mr. Nadezhdin in Yakutsk, south of the Arctic Circle. “This is simply our protest, our form of protest, so we can somehow show we are against all this.”

The grass-roots mobilization in an authoritarian country, where national elections have long been a Potemkin affair, has injected energy into a Russian opposition movement that has been all but obliterated: Its most promising leaders have been exiled, jailed or killed in a sweeping crackdown on dissent that has escalated with the war.

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A Collective ‘No’: Anti-Putin Russians Embrace an Unlikely Challenger

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