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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny splashed with green liquid in Siberia

Published: March 21 2017 - 9:31AM

Moscow: An unknown assailant splashed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday with a green liquid known to be hard to wash off as the vocal Kremlin critic opened his campaign headquarters in the Siberian town of Barnaul.

A video filmed by a Navalny supporter shows the anti-corruption activist walking along a street in Barnaul, more than 3000 kms from Moscow, and shaking hands with residents when a man approaches him and throws the liquid at him.

The green solution, known as "zelyonka", is sold as an antiseptic in Russian pharmacies and while not harmful, it is known for being hard to wash off. Other opposition figures have been splashed with the liquid previously.

Navalny is touring Russia ahead of the 2018 presidential election in which he will challenge incumbent Vladimir Putin.

Navalny wrote on his Facebook page that he initially feared an acid attack after feeling a burning sensation. But relief appears to have given way to exaltation after he realised that the bright green liquid not only would not harm him, but even made him look like a superhero - in his eyes, anyway. He can be seen mugging for the camera in a selfie taken after the fact.

Referring to masked heroes in Hollywood films in a post on Twitter, he wrote: "I will be opening a headquarters in Barnaul as if I am from the film The Mask! Cool. Even my teeth are green!"

Navalny, a charismatic critic of President Vladimir Putin, was a major driver of large street protests in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and has irked the Kremlin by shining a light on corruption. His bid to run for president of Russia was effectively derailed in February when a Russian court revived a 4-year-old criminal conviction for defrauding a state company.

But he has continued to campaign, with his supporters saying the charges against him are politically motivated.

Why are people in Moscow painting their faces green in solidarity w/ opposition leader Alexei @Navalny? This is why: https://t.co/Siy62havz8 pic.twitter.com/iY9VhSdO0Y

— The Moscow Times (@MoscowTimes) March 20, 2017

It turns out that being attacked with green substances is something of an occupational hazard for outspoken opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Late last month, Mikhail M. Kasyanov, another Putin critic, was spattered with green paint at a march in memory of the politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed on a Moscow bridge two years ago.

After the Siberia incident, some Navalny supporters showed solidarity by painting their faces green and posting on Twitter ("Alexei, Kazan headquarters is with you! We support!"), and one prominent blogger was detained after being seen on Red Square with his face and hands painted green.

Undeterred by the paint, Navalny suggested that his new look would help him stand out at rallies. Perhaps he was thinking of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who wears pastel outfits and colourful hats to help onlookers spot her in a crowd.

"This strange assumption of the Kremlin: to pour brilliant green on me so that I don't travel around the country and call rallies," he wrote on Facebook. "It's way cooler that way. Barnaul and Biysk volunteers (where we are opening two campaign headquarters these days) will get the most stylish selfies ever, and I'll be the star of any rally."

He did, however, seem more concerned about his new green teeth. "Lemon won't help you remove brilliant green," he wrote. "Formic acid is way better. But I'll remain light-green for quite some time. What worries me is my teeth. They are also green so far, but I hope they'll discolour."

Whatever his new appearance, he showed little sign of backing down. "Our plans don't change," he wrote on Facebook. "On 26th, turn out for rallies."

Reuters, New York Times

This story was found at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/content/adaptive/canberratimes/world/russian-opposition-leader-alexei-navalny-splashed-with-green-liquid-in-siberia-20170320-gv2ia9.html