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Russia’s Supreme Court upholds ban barring Navalny from running for presidency

Russia’s Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) to bar opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president in next year’s election.

The top court on Saturday dismissed an appeal by Navalny against the CEC’s move, ruling that the decision to bar him from the race fully conformed to law.

Election officials on Monday formally barred Navalny from taking part in the March presidential election over a criminal conviction he had in the past.

In response to the ban, Navalny called for a boycott of the vote, raising the prospect of protests.

Navalny claims the conviction, a suspended five-year prison sentence over embezzlement charges, is fabricated and politically-motivated.

Following Saturday’s ruling, Navalny, who did not attend the court hearing, renewed his call for a “voters’ strike.”

“We don’t acknowledge elections without competition,” he wrote on Twitter.

Navalny, who has organized some of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years, has been imprisoned three times this year and charged with breaking the law for organizing public meetings and rallies.

Polls show that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose approval ratings top 80 percent, is on course to easily win a fourth term in the March 18 vote.

Navalny says his exclusion from the vote makes a sham of the ballot.

If Putin wins the March election, he will be in power until 2024.

Veterans of past elections — Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and liberal Grigory Yavlinsky —  have all declared their intention to run.

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