CAGED Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has overtaken Vladimir Putin as Russia's most talked-about politician for the first time, according to new analysis.
The 44-year-old was said to have been mentioned on social media 1.3 million times more than Putin after being detained at a Moscow airport on January 17 having recovered from a Novichok nerve agent attack.
Navalny was later sentenced to two-and-a-half years in a prison labour camp.
This was punishment for failing to report to police in August while he fought for his life in a hospital in Germany after falling ill on a plane in Siberia — in a widely suspected attempted Kremlin-assassination.
Before he was jailed, Navalny released a bombshell video revealing a secret Black Sea pleasure palace built by Putin at a cost of £1 billion, which has now been viewed more than 100 million times.
Anger over his jailing and the palace claims sparked angry demonstrations involving tens of thousands of angry citizens across the vast nation’s 11 time zones.
But rather than quashing support for Navalny, online Russian-language publication Open Media has found between the poisoned Putic critic's arrest and last Tuesday, he was mentioned almost 10.8 million times on social media.
The data was collated from blogs and social networks such as Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram, as well as TikTok.
Navalny was also mentioned more than 226,000 times on national and regional media outlets — second place behind Putin's 291,000 times.
Navalny simply served as a trigger, people are tired of what’s happening here
Many protesters have claimed they have taken to the streets as much out of anger at their falling living standards and corruption, than the persecution of the president’s politician foe.
Dad-of-two Artyom Prokhorov, a marketing manager in Oryol, 200 miles south of Moscow, told The Wall Street Journal ordinary people were fed-up Putin’s Russia.
He said: "People don’t go out to protest for someone, they go out against something.
"Navalny simply served as a trigger. People are tired of what’s happening here.
"We don’t get involved in politics, and you give us the opportunity to earn…. And we will close our eyes to your stealing."
But he added: "The social elevators don’t work at all."
Meanwhile, Putin has recently signed off laws allowing him to remain in power until at least 2036.
Putin enemy Yuri Felshtinsky told The Sun Online the ongoing unrest has convinced the Kremlin strongman that more repression and killing of opponents is needed to avoid the same grisly fate as Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi
Felshtinsky told The Sun Online Putin will feel he needs to ramp up the brutality to quell the dissent and protect his position
It has been reported that the Russian leader has “watched obsessively” videos ofGaddafi being brutally murdered after being cornered by a raging mob in 2011.
Felshtinsky agrees that Putin is terrified that if he were ever to loosen the grip, then a similar bitter end awaits him.
“Correct – this he knows,” Felshtinsky told The Sun Online.
“He’s bright enough to know that under normal rules, his system of government cannot exist. He’s not an idealist.
“He knows there’s no way he can survive unless he continues to oppress.
“The lesson that Putin will have learned after the recent events is that he should control more and that he should repress more. And that’s what we will see.”
Volkov, who oversees Navalny's regional headquarters, has angered the authorities by organising anti-Kremlin protests from his base in Lithuania, demanding the release of Navalny.
What happened to Gaddafi?
COLONEL Gaddafi's brutal regime came to an end on October 20, 2011, when he was cornered by a revolutionary mob.
He was killed in a frenzied execution staged by rebels after being found hunkered down in a storm drain in Sirte, Libya.
Chilling video captured the tyrant's final moments as he was seen covered in blood amongst a crowd of fighters who are chanting "God is great".
The dictator – who committed war crimes and viciously oppressed his people – can be heard begging for mercy in the clips, saying "what you're doing is wrong".
"“What is the matter? What’s going on? What do you want?" the bloodied tyrant pleaded.
Jeers of "you dog" and cheers of "victory" can be heard as the bewildered dictator was captured by the mob.
He is reported to have been beaten and tortured by the rebels – including having a knife or bayonet inserted into his anus.
Gaddafi was then shot at close range, with some reports stating he was executed with his own custom-made gold gun.
His body was placed on public display inside a freezer so the population would have proof that the vile ruler was dead.
It comes as the number of Russians who expect there to be new protests has jumped to its highest since 1998, the independent Levada pollster said.
The Moscow-based Levada Centre said an opinion poll conducted from January. 29 to February 2 showed that 45 per cent of people expected fresh political protests, a jump from 23 per cent last November.
The poll also found that 43 per cent of people said they thought protests with economic demands were possible. That level was last recorded in November 1998, the year of Russia's financial crisis.
Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has unexpectedly left for Germany earlier this month
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