In Russia, since Putin took [part in] power (say since 2000), is it always the case that opposition leaders that were attaining high popularity (relative to other opposition figures), or at least high momentum (rapid increase) in gaining such popularity, ended up out of the elections race, for various reasons, such as: getting a criminal dossier, getting killed, etc.?
Basically, I want a (brief) historical account of high-impact opposition figures and their [non-]participation in elections. Ideally, their popularity [or momentum in gaining such] should be confirmed with an opinion poll [or two]... assuming these are even possible in Russia. (If not, it would be interesting to hear briefly why these can't take place.)
I'm asking in the context of Putin's declaration last year that he does not mind a credible opposition:
"As for your question about the opposition: why doesn't such [an opposition] emerge that would be competitive... The simplest thing for me to say would be that it's not up to me to raise competitors for myself," Putin said, speaking at his annual presser in Moscow December 14. At the same time, he noted that there must be competition in politics. "Although I must say something unexpected: I think that our political environment, as well as an economic one, should be competitive. And, of course, I would very much like - I want it and I will strive for it - that we have a balanced political system. And it is impossible to imagine it without competition in the political field," the Russian president said. "Why do we seem to have noisy and active opposition who are not a real competition for the current authorities? You know, to put it mildly, great peculiarities have developed in Russia over the past decades," he stressed.
Great peculiarities indeed. I can remember myself that Boris Nemtsov ended up assassinated (2015) and in 2017 Alexei Navalny was barred because of a previous fraud conviction. But were they the main figures of the opposition at the time, or just some guy in the pack? And does the list of "great peculiarities" extend further in time before these two?