A pro-peace Russian presidential hopeful submits documents to register as a candidate

A Russian politician calling for peace in Ukraine presented documents Wednesday to Russia’s Central Election Commission to register as a candidate for the country’s 2024 presidential election.

Regional legislator Yekaterina Duntsova hopes to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin, promoting her vision of a “humane” Russia “that’s peaceful, friendly and ready to cooperate with everyone on the principle of respect.”

Speaking to journalists in Moscow on Wednesday, Duntsova said she hoped the event would inspire her supporters. If accepted as an independent candidate, the former journalist would next need to gather 300,000 signatures of support from at least 40 Russian regions.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment: We’ve done everything that we needed to do. We’ve made this step, and I think it should inspire people who support us,” she said.

“(I hope that) I’ll at least be registered (as a candidate). But, of course, collecting signatures is a huge job and I hope that people will be actively taking part.”

Russia’s state parliament set March 17 as the date for the country’s 2024 presidential earlier this month, moving Putin a step closer to a fifth term in office.

The tight control that Putin has established over Russia’s political system during 24 years in power makes his reelection in March all but assured. Prominent critics who could challenge him are either in prison or living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.

Speaking to The Associated Press in a previous interview, Duntsova said she was afraid of the Kremlin’s previous targeting of opposition activists and protesters.

But she insisted it is necessary to “present an alternative” to Putin and his policies.

She said that if elected, her first presidential decree would mandate the release of Russia’s “political prisoners,” without giving names. In earlier statements she spoke of her readiness to free Putin’s arch-enemy, the anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Duntsova took her first steps toward candidate status Sunday, when her run was endorsed by 500 supporters as required by Russian election law.

More than 500 people gathered in Moscow to back the bid, according to Telegram updates by Sota, a Russian news publication covering the opposition, protests and human rights issues.

The meeting ultimately proceeded unimpeded, despite electricity at the venue briefly going out and security guards initially refusing to let some enter the building.

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