More than a decade later, the little-known journalist and mother of three from a small town in western Russia remembers the photo as a joke about her civic activism, but she says it also carried “a message about the future.”
Despite her lack of political experience, Dontsova hopes her future will see her win against Putin in the next presidential election in March 2024, and the Kremlin leader’s strong hold on politics could guarantee her another term, analysts say. .
In an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow, Dontsova, a 40-year-old independent candidate, said she wants to make peace with Ukraine, free jailed government critics and make Russia “a humanitarian country that its citizens can trust.” According to her expression.
The candidate also opposes the Kremlin-initiated military operation in Ukraine, decades of centralization of power, and the way it handles the opposition.
Tontsova spoke about the upcoming elections with many activists and representatives, adding: “At some point, the idea arose that it would be interesting for a woman to run against Putin, because it would be different. Toughness and grace.”
As a journalist-turned-activist and local lawmaker with a law degree, Dontsova weighs her words carefully to avoid violating Russian laws about the 21-month war in Ukraine.
However, Dontsova stressed her desire for a quick end to the fighting in Ukraine, adding that “we want peace” as Moscow and Kiev sit down at the negotiating table.
Tontsova declined to talk about what a potential peace deal would look like, but pointed out that Ukrainian officials have repeatedly rejected negotiations while Putin was in power.
“It follows that they are willing to negotiate with someone else,” he said.
If elected, he said his first presidential order would be to release unnamed “political prisoners” in Russia.
Dontsova began her career in Rzhev, a historic city of about 60,000 people 230 kilometers west of Moscow.
He said his work at a local TV station sparked his interest in addressing people’s concerns and gradually pushed him towards civic participation.
“I thought, ‘I can’t just ignore what’s going on, I have to get involved,'” she said.
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