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Navalny Urged Supporters in Occupied Ukraine to Vote in Russia’s Regional Elections This September

A woman casts her ballot in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine on September 23, 2022. REUTERS/Alexey Pavlishak
Sergej Sumlenny

Sergej Sumlenny

founder of the European Resilience Initiative Center

"Navalny calls his supporters to actively participate in ‘elections in 40 regions of Russia’ this September. Needless to say, ‘elections’ will take place in 36 regions; other four are Ukrainian regions Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya."


On September 10, 2023, elections will be held in Russia for governors, mayors and regional and local legislatures, and for four seats in the State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament).

Citing the Central Election Commission (CEC), the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG) reported that elections would be held that day in 45 regions, including in “new territories.”

RG mentioned the DPR (the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic), the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, and Crimea. All five of those regions are parts of Ukraine under Russian occupation.

On August 21, in a piece posted on his website headlined “What to do in the elections this fall,” Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who has been in a Russian prison since January 17, 2021, wrote:

Many people will be surprised, but elections still exist. On September 10, elections will be held in 40 regions, including Yekaterinburg, Omsk region, Khabarovsk, Krasnoyarsk, Yaroslavl and Arkhangelsk regions, Khakassia and Yakutia. Thus, we need to decide on our approach to these elections, so I have some suggestions.

The same day Navalny posted his piece, Ukrainian political scientist Sergej Sumlenny, founder and managing director of the European Resilience Initiative Center, a Berlin-based think tank, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that four partially-occupied regions of Ukraine were among the 40 regions where Navalny said his supporters should cast votes on September 10:

“Navalny calls his supporters to actively participate in ‘elections in 40 regions of Russia’ this September. Needless to say, ‘elections’ will take place in 36 regions, other four are Ukrainian regions Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya.”

Sumlenny’s claim is unsubstantiated.

In the piece posted on his website, Navalny called for voting in 40 Russian regions that will hold elections on September 10. But he did not refer to any regions specifically, which might confuse his supporters about which regional elections he thinks they should vote in.

Navalny did link to a Russian Wikipedia page headlined “Single voting day September 10, 2023,” which details the elections to be held that day. Like RG, the Russian Wikipedia page indicates that elections will be held in 40 Russian regions and five Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine.

Nine hours after Sergej Sumlenny posted his tweet, Navalny's chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, posted to X the following response:

“The so-called ‘expert’ Sumenny [Sic] simply made up this story in order to sling mud at the political prisoner Alexei Navalny, knowing full well that this is a lie.

Russia has 83 regions, in 40 of which there will be elections held this September (here is the list: This list doesn't anyhow include the 6 (and not 4!) illegally annexed Ukrainian regions.

But there will be no apologies or corrections.”

The list of 40 Russian regions to which Vokov linked had been posted by Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, six hours after Sumlenny’s tweet.

As of August 23, Navalny’s original piece on his website had not added a link to the list of regions cited by Zhdanov.

Also, the list of 40 Russian regions where elections will be held on September 10 cited by Zhdanov does not entirely coincide with the 40 Russian regions listed on Russian Wikipedia’s “Single voting day September 10, 2023” page.

Zhdanov’s list includes Ingushetia, where municipal elections will be held, and Khabarovsk, where mayoral elections will be held, but these elections are not mentioned on the Russian Wikipedia page.

At the same time, the Russian Wikipedia page indicates that State Duma by-elections will be held in Karachay-Cherkessia and the Lipetsk region, but those elections are not included on Zhdanov's list.

Sumlenny suggested that Zhdanov “manipulated the list of the region[s]” to “get a magic number of 40 regions WITHOUT occupied Ukrainian regions.”

Whatever the case, even before this controversy, Ukrainian political activists had criticized Alexei Navalny for his attitude toward Russian-occupied Crimea.

In October 2014, Navalny told the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station: "Crimea will remain part of Russia and will never again become part of Ukraine in the foreseeable future."

In March 2021, the Free Navalny website posted a map of Russia that included occupied Crimea.