Russians paint their faces in online flashmob in support of opposition politician Alexey Navalny
On the morning of Monday, March 20, Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny was sprayed with“zelyonka,” or “brilliant green,” an antiseptic that is often sprayed in the faces of political figures, especially opposition ones, in Russia and Ukraine. The attack on Navalny happened in Barnaul, a large city in southwestern Siberia.
Navalny went on with his campaign events, posing for photographs with supporters and staffers throughout the day with his face and hands still showing the effect of the surprise spray-down.
Though zelyonka attacks are meant to shame politicians and political activists, as the chemical can take days to wash off, Navalny took his dousing in stride. He took to Twitter to joke about his (temporary) appearance, comparing himself to The Mask and other strangely-hued movie characters.
Navalny’s supporters took to social media under the hashtags #Навальный2018 (Navalny 2018), in reference to his upcoming presidential bid in the 2018 elections, and #ЗеленыйНавальный (#GreenNavalny) with green faces to show their solidarity.
— Аня Алексеевна (@anisshko) March 20, 2017
— Эльвира Дмитриева (@El_Dmi) March 20, 2017
Жена и сын Олега Навального! pic.twitter.com/6zWxdSPUNO
— Соболь Любовь (@SobolLubov) March 20, 2017
In one instance, the Russian police arrested an activist after he publicly displayed a green face (and hands). Blogger and journalist Nikolay Danilov (who blogs as “Norwegian Forest,” or Lesnoy for short) was arrested shortly after coming to Red Square:
Вышли с Лесным на красную площадь в цвете по последней моде, не продержались и 5 минут. Лесного увели в ОВД pic.twitter.com/e8lm37DKa4
— Elisabetta Corsi (@CorsiLi) March 20, 2017
Not everyone had the time or means to put on a truly green face, and were more creative in their displays of solidarity:
Recently, Navalny has received attention for his popular open source investigation “Don’t Call Him Dimon,” revealing a network of expensive properties apparently owned by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The YouTube summary of this investigation has gathered over 10 million views, likely making it the most popular investigation released by his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). It is unclear if the online movement can be parlayed into wider electoral success for the opposition candidate, but his popular online investigations and the growing movement on the #Навальный2018 and #ЗеленыйНавальный hashtags show the capabilities of the web-savvy Navalny campaign.