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World

Mass pro-Navalny protests planned as Putin addresses Russia

  • But the speech threatens to be overshadowed by country-wide demonstrations called by Navalny's supporters, who fear the life of Putin's best-known critic is in grave danger.
Published April 21, 2021

MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin delivers a state of the nation address on Wednesday as Russia deals with a crisis in ties with the West and faces calls for mass protests in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The longtime Russian leader's annual speech to lawmakers and regional governors sets the political agenda and last year saw Putin lay out a plan that eventually gave him the power to stay in office until 2036.

This year's address comes with Moscow locked in diplomatic disputes with the United States and Europe over a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine's borders and a series of espionage scandals.

With parliamentary elections due in September, Putin will be looking to shore up his public support and is likely to remain defiant with the West, as well as announcing a series of measures to boost Russia's pandemic-hit economy.

But the speech threatens to be overshadowed by country-wide demonstrations called by Navalny's supporters, who fear the life of Putin's best-known critic is in grave danger.

Navalny's team has called for protests from 7:00 pm (0400 GMT) in cities across Russia to support the anti-corruption campaigner, who launched a hunger strike three weeks ago to protest his lack of medical treatment in prison.

Police have issued warnings against joining Wednesday's rallies, saying they are illegal gatherings. They arrested thousands during anti-government demonstrations earlier this year.

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