In a show of defiance against what they called a manipulated electoral process to extend Vladimir Putin's rule, the widow and close allies of Alexei Navalny joined long queues of voters outside Russian embassies in foreign capitals on Sunday, March 17.

Navalny, Putin's most prominent critic, died suddenly in an Arctic prison last month, and his supporters had called for Russians to turn up at polling stations at midday Sunday in a "Noon Against Putin" protest, in what is now seen as the opposition leader's last wish. 

The three-day polls have taken place as Moscow's war against Ukraine stretches into its third year, with all prominent Kremlin critics in jail, in exile or dead. 

In various cities including Paris, Berlin, and The Hague, Russians formed lengthy lines outside embassies, some brandishing anti-Kremlin signs or donning the colors of the Russian opposition.

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Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's widow, stood among the voters in Berlin, receiving flowers and solidarity from supporters. Her presence echoed the sentiment of continuing the fight for justice and democracy that Navalny had championed.

She was also pictured huddling with self-exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

"Obviously I wrote Navalny's name" on the ballot paper, Navalnaya said.

Crowds had earlier chanted: "Yulia, Yulia, we're with you," as she entered to cast her ballot.

In Paris, thousands of people queued outside the embassy, some holding anti-Kremlin placards. Many, including opposition figure Gennady Gudkov, said they had not expected such a turnout.

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"I have lived in Paris for a long time," said Sergei Guriev, provost at Sciences Po, one of France's most prestigious universities who was friends with Navalny. "I have never seen such lines."

Guriev spoke at a rally of dozens of protesters who gathered in Paris on Sunday afternoon after casting their ballots.

Pointing to the long lines, he said it was evident that many Russians were against Putin and the vote would be rigged.

"Today he's committing his latest crime," Guriev said, adding world leaders should not recognise the results of the vote.

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Despite concerns, protests outside Russian embassies in other countries remained peaceful.

Hundreds of people also took part in the "Noon against Putin" protest in front of the Russian embassy in Washington.

Yulia Traub, 38, came to vote against Putin even though she said she knew the outcome.

"If you cannot do or say anything you must at least lie down and lay in the direction in which you want to move," Yulia told AFP.

In Istanbul queues outside Russia's consulate reached several hundred metres.

"We want to make Putin's job more difficult," said Yuri, who like his companion Elena -- wearing Ukraine's national colour yellow -- declined to give his last name.

In Belgrade, activists held up a banner reading "Putin is not Russia."

"Some people plan to spoil their ballot, to make it invalid by voting for multiple candidates," said Peter Nikitin, an activist.

In Moldova, police detained a 54-year-old man after two Molotov cocktails were reportedly thrown at the Russian embassy.

There were no reports of violence elsewhere.

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