Russian election hopeful wants to end Ukraine war

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STORY: Yekaterina Duntsova wants to end Vladimir Putin’s reign and in turn the conflict in Ukraine.

The former regional TV journalist hopes to be Russia's next president.

"I expect that we will negotiate in the future. Any conflict, including an armed one comes to an end, sooner or later. I do wish it was over as soon as possible."

The 40-year-old announced her desire to run in next year’s elections this month.

But she told Reuters in this sit-down interview she is afraid.

And has been warned about speaking too much to foreign correspondents.

"It is clear that any sane person taking this step would be afraid. But fear must not win. Because there is a goal. And it is important to me not to cheat those people who write to me expressing their support, who call me their hope."

That hope includes a promise to free political prisoners and undertake major reform to halt division between Russia and the West.

Russian laws can prosecute those who criticize what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation’’ in Ukraine.

So Duntsova refused to use the word "war" to describe the conflict.

Choosing her words carefully, she says she is not a pawn being used to legitimize the election and denies any links to the Kremlin.

"Despite the very substantial support (for Putin), the people are very tired of what is happening. The families who lost their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons they do suffer very much. ''

Duntsova needs 300,000 signatures to stand in the March election. Russian state media ignore her.

Putin is expected to run and is certain to win if he does.

Opposition politicians cast the vote as a fig leaf of democracy adorning a corrupt dictatorship.

Saying such elections often draw in weak candidates to give the pretense of competition.

Putin supporters dismiss that, pointing to independent polling showing approval ratings of over 80%.

"Every day, it becomes clearer that the laws will become tougher and that there will be fewer and fewer rights and freedoms. Some people may even like it because they do not need to make decisions. There is a category of people who are very comfortable when others make decisions for them. But we are talking about people who want to think. They are depressed by the situation when they can't speak or act freely."