JRL NEWSWATCH: “‘Meet Me,’ Alexei Navalny Wrote; The opposition leader is setting up a showdown with both Putin and the people. Who will rise to the occasion?” – Moscow Times/ Sam Greene

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Marching on Street with Others in Background; adapted from image at commons.wikimedia.org with credit to Evgeny Feldman, subject to Creative Commons license; original image at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FEV_1795_(cropped1).jpg, with license information at creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en and creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

“‘Meet me.’ With those … words … just one word in Russian … Navalny announced his return to Russia [Jan. 17], after … recuperating in Berlin from an attempt to poison him with … nerve agent Novichok. … Opposition supporters … have clearly taken his message as an invitation to show up … [despite winter weather]. Most commentators … expect Russian law enforcement …. Navalny’s return to Moscow … def[ies] … expectations … [and] throws down a gauntlet … to the Kremlin and … the Russian public … forc[ing] a reckoning. … Short of revoking his passport, the Kremlin has done just about everything it can to encourage … ‘the Berlin patient’ to stay away. … Nerve Agent Effects Body Chart, adapted from image at shareamerica.gov with credit to CDCFor years … focusing on potholes, then … corruption, Navalny has tried telling Russians how poorly their country was governed. … [which] they …  already kn[e]w. A relatively small number of Russians … gradually came to believe that if Navalny were ever elected, things might get better … evidently enough to spook someone in the corridors of power into trying to kill him. …”

Meanwhile, pre-New Year’s polls already had Putin popularity at all-time lows, with publicly reported figures such as 60% (FOM ), 65% (Levada Center) or 61% (VtSIOM).

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