It was the last political and civic action wanted by Alexeï Navalny before his death in detention on February 16. His allies therefore call, in his place, the Russians to participate in the “Noon against Putin” action. It consists of encouraging all those who do not support Vladimir Putin to vote in the presidential election on a specific date and time: Sunday March 17 at noon. Or the last day of voting. The first round of the Russian election takes place from March 15 to 17 and will most likely end with the re-election of Vladimir Putin for six years.

What does this operation actually consist of? A website, dedicated to the protest event, details the procedure to follow: “Report quickly to your polling station at noon on Sunday March 17. Do not hesitate to queue for paper ballots. Refuse electronic voting in any form. (…) Vote for whoever you want, or for someone who has not already been president, or against all (by checking more than one box), damage the ballot paper by scribbling it, or do not vote no way.”

The objective of Vladimir Putin’s opponents: “To show that there are many of us. The queues that will line up across the country will show how much discontent has built up in the country, how many people want a normal and stable future, a better life.” This message refers in particular to the invasion in Ukraine, contested by part of the Russian population. The site also advises “spreading the word.” “Talk about it to your neighbors, your acquaintances, your friends,” we can read.

This initiative was first promoted by Alexeï Navalny last January, before he died in prison. “This is a real nationwide protest action that will take place not only in every city but in every neighborhood of every city,” he wrote in a series of tweets on X on February 1. .

This latest political action by the activist is also described as a “political testament” by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, known for fighting for freedom of expression in Russia.

If Navalny is at the origin of the promotion of the event, the very idea of ​​the operation goes to Maxim Reznik, one of the major figures of the political opposition and former member of the Saint Petersburg city council. Alexeï Navalny had also paid tribute to him in a tweet: “The author of this idea is Maxim Reznik, a long-time friend of mine.”

Maxim Reznik actively relays action and strong political messages through Russian media. He notably spoke on the opposition site Meduza about the March 17 event: “All the headlines will not be about Putin’s electoral performance but about what happened at ‘noon’ . And that will already be a victory for the resistance,” he declared. “Our goal is not to win the election (…) but to thwart it,” he added.

Since Navalny’s death, the operation has been taken over by his wife, Yulia Navalnaïa, who has become the embodiment of the Russian opposition in exile. In an online video, she urges her compatriots to “go to the polling station on the same day and at the same time”, and to “vote for any candidate except Putin or damage your ballot, or write “Navalny” in big letters.”

At the request of her husband, many opposition figures support citizen action, particularly on social networks. And for them, this action is rich in symbolism and will lead to a before/after. His friend and supporter Leonid Volkov, attacked on March 12 at his home in Lithuania, where he was exiled, spoke of the possible consequences of such an event in the columns of the media Meduza. “If two or three people get together in a village or a small town and everyone realizes that they are not the only liberal, then perhaps it will have even more value than in large populated cities” , he said.

Leonid Volkov was also the former president of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Russian NGO created by Navalny and dissolved by the regime in 2021. This foundation also supported the “Midi against Putin” operation on he idea is simple: anti-Putin voters will come to the polling stations and vote the way they want.”

According to Alexeï Navalny, this operation is “legal and safe” because it would be difficult for the Russian authorities to arrest opponents of Vladimir Putin who came to vote. “What can they do? Will they close the polls at noon? Are they going to hold an action in support of Putin at 10 a.m.? Are they going to record everyone who came at noon and put them on the list of unreliable people?” he tweeted in February before adding that at noon “there are a lot of people and it is simply impossible to identify those who vote against Putin.