RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has made the best of what appeared to be the latest attempt to trip up his effort to run for president.
After being doused with green antiseptic while opening a campaign office in the Siberian city of Barnaul on March 20, Navalny said that whoever did it had done him a favor.
"Maybe in the Kremlin they think I won't make this video with a green face, but I definitely will, because even more people will watch me," Navalny said in a clip posted on his website, suggesting that President Vladimir Putin's administration was behind the attack. "This will certainly not stop me."
With his face and hands covered in "zelyonka" -- a green liquid used by Russian parents and doctors for decades to treat skinned knees and other minor injuries -- he called on viewers to turn out for rallies he is trying to stage nationwide on March 26 against alleged government corruption.
"It could be The Mask, Avatar, or Shrek," Navalny wrote.
A wave of memes followed on social media, with supporters of Navalny taking selfies in green face paint and one covering the face of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev -- the target of Navalny's most recent corruption allegations -- in green.
Navalny, a prominent opposition politician and anticorruption campaigner who helped lead large street protests in 2011-12, is seeking to run for president in March 2018 -- a direct challenge to Putin, who is widely expected to seek a new six-year term.
Russian authorities say that Navalny will be barred from the ballot if a conviction on financial-crimes charges is upheld on appeal, but he has pushed ahead with campaign-style appearances.
He denies wrongdoing and says his convictions in two separate cases were politically motivated punishment for his opposition to Putin.
He has faced numerous obstacles while opening campaign offices across Russia in recent weeks.
In Novosibirsk, protesters tried to pelt Navalny with eggs. In Tomsk, doors of apartments belonging to Navalny's team members and exhaust pipes of their cars were covered with insulation foam.
In Nizhny Novgorod, protesters met Navalny at the railway station holding placards suggesting that he was a traitor and should be jailed. In Ufa, Navalny was challenged by dozens of protesters holding his portraits with a U.S. flag in the background and inscription saying "U.S. agent."
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