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Kremlin says Navalny no threat to ‘political Olympus Putin’

A still image taken from an AFPTV footage shows opposition leader Alexei Navalny taking a selfie photograph during a rally calling for a boycott of March 18 presidential elections, Moscow, January 28, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Alexandra Dalsbaek

The Kremlin said Monday it did not regard opposition politician Alexei Navalny as a threat and called President Vladimir Putin the “leader of the political Olympus.”

Navalny organised weekend protests that saw thousands of Russians rally against a March presidential election expected to extend Putin’s 18-year rule by another six years.

“The level of Vladimir Putin’s popularity reaches far beyond Russia’s borders,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“I don’t think anybody can doubt that Putin is the absolute leader of public opinion, the absolute leader of the political Olympus with whom it is unlikely that someone can seriously compete with at this stage,” he added.

“Putin has repeatedly confirmed this undeniable leadership and continues to do so.”

Asked whether the Kremlin viewed Navalny as a political threat, Peskov said “no.”

Navalny has been barred from standing in the March election and is calling on Russians to boycott the vote.

Navalny was arrested minutes after appearing at Moscow’s protests on Sunday but was later freed after a brief spell in police detention in the Russian capital.

About 4,000 people turned up for the unsanctioned rally in Moscow, with many chanting “Down with the czar” and brandishing placards saying “Voters strike.”

More than 250 people were detained across the country, according to OVD-Info, an independent monitor.

Navalny — seen as the only politician able to take on Putin — has built a robust protest movement, tapping into the anger of a younger generation yearning for change.

Putin has led Russia since 1999, both as president and prime minister. He is expected to win a fourth term in March that would make him the longest serving Russian ruler since dictator Joseph Stalin.

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