While President Vladimir Putin has yet to confirm if he plans to run for re-election next year, both Igor Girkin, who is wanted in Ukraine for alleged war crimes and Ekaterina Duntsova, a journalist and political activist from Russia’s Tver region announced they would stand as candidates last week.

Duntsova announced her intention to stand as an independent candidate on Telegram last Thursday.

In an interview with The Moscow Times she said that as a journalist she had “always been immersed in politics” but made her first foray into political activism in 2017 supporting the campaign for the return of direct mayoral elections in Rzhev.

In 2019, Duntsova was elected to Rzhev's City Duma, which she says showed her the vital importance of local self-governance across Russia which would be a central piece of her campaign platform.

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Her manifesto said that she had decided to put her name forward because: “I love our country, I want Russia to be a democratic, prosperous and peaceful state.

“And now our country is moving in a completely different direction: away from rights and freedoms, away from love and peace, away from a wonderful future.”

She said that friends asked her if she seriously believed the election would result in change, whether she would be registered as a candidate and whether she was worried about being imprisoned as others had before.

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She said: “Of course, I have no illusions about these ‘elections’, and, like any normal person, I am afraid.

“But I have hope that Russia can be changed democratically. I am sure that it is worth trying, that there are many of us and any attempt is better than inaction!”

To register as a candidate, she knew that she would need to hold a meeting of an initiative group of 500 people and collect 300 thousand signatures. She asked those who were ready to support her candidacy fill out the form on the website duntsova2024.ru.

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The concerns of her friends weren’t misplaced and the powers that be appeared to take exception to her comments, some of which touched upon the war in Ukraine.

She had said: “Local self-government, rights and freedoms, budget priorities, war and peace, our future concern each of us… I understand that many now want to wait, hide and sit out, but we need to act today, then it may be too late.

“It is important to do our best! Let's at least try! Let's try to win this ‘election’!”

Any criticism of Russia's war in Ukraine is effectively illegal under sweeping censorship laws passed in the first days after Russia launched its military offensive.

On Wednesday prosecutors in Rzhev, a town 200 kilometers west of Moscow, called Duntsova in for questioning and asked her to explain her views about war and peace, her opinion of the current government and what is happening in the country, she told the Agentstvo media site Wednesday.

She maintained that she had phrased her views carefully in line with the existing censorship laws and had avoided making any comments that could directly or indirectly be taken as any criticism of the war in Ukraine or Russia’s military.

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It remains to be seen whether the authorities accepted her explanations.

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