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One in six Russians more negative on Putin after Navalny palace video - poll

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One in six Russian adults takes a dimmer view of President Vladimir Putin after watching a video investigation by jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny that links a luxury palace to the Russian leader, an opinion poll indicated on Monday.

A still image taken from video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, inside a defendant dock during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021. Press service of Simonovsky District Court/Handout via REUTERS/Files

The video, which focuses on a sprawling palace in southern Russia that boasts its own theatre, ice-hockey stadium, and casino, has clocked up 110 million views on YouTube since it was released on Jan. 19 and has been used by Navalny’s allies to encourage people to take part in anti-Kremlin protests.

Businessman Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo partner, said the palace was his after Putin told students that the palace did not belong to him or his family.

A poll released on Monday by the Levada Center, which is not affiliated with the authorities, found 26% of adult Russians - or one in four - had watched Navalny’s investigation, while 31% had not heard of it.

Seventeen percent of those surveyed said their opinion of Putin had changed for the worse after watching it, though 77% said their view of him had not altered.

The same poll, part of which was released last Thursday, had Putin’s approval rating holding steady at 64%.

Russians were split on the veracity of the palace allegations, Monday’s findings showed. One third said they were sure they were not true, 38% said it looked like they were true but it was hard to evaluate, and 17% said they were sure they were true.

Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally, hailed the findings.

“When people watch, it works,” Volkov wrote on Twitter. “17% of those who watched it saying they took a more negative view of Putin is a lot. We are talking about millions of people. It’s a battle - in a direct sense - for Russians’ minds.”

The Kremlin has dismissed the video as nonsense and as part of a scam to get people to make donations to Navalny’s allies.

Navalny was jailed this month over parole allegations he denied in a criminal case he said was trumped up to stymie his political ambitions.

Navalny allies have put anti-Kremlin protests on hold for now until warmer weather and say they are focused on trying to achieve a breakthrough at parliamentary elections in the autumn.

The Levada poll, conducted among 1,616 adults across the country, was carried out from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Editing by Timothy Heritage