Russian Officials Ban Putin Critic Alexei Navalny from Entering Presidential Race

One of the organisers of the upcoming opposition rally “For Fair Elections,” anti-Kremlin blogger Alexei Navalny, attends a meeting of the rally organisers in Moscow, on January 31, 2012. Opposition movement plans to stage a third in a series of rallies in Moscow and other big cities against Putin on February 4. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian officials barred activist Alexei Navalny from entering the country’s presidential race a day after he held nomination gatherings to kick off his run, according to state-run media outlet RIA-Novosti.

Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected Navalny’s registration the day after he submitted it, citing a previous embezzlement conviction, RIA-Novosti reported.

“Firstly, a citizen who has been sentenced to imprisonment for committing a grave or especially grave crime and who has an outstanding conviction for the said crime, has no right to be elected president of the Russian federation,” said CEC member Boris Ebzeev.

The decision was not a surprise. Navalny’s candidacy was unlikely because Russian law prevents convicted criminals from running for public office, though Navalny and his supporters have said his conviction was politically motivated to block his presidential bid.

Navalny will appeal the commission’s decision, his campaign press secretary Ruslan Shaveddinov told CNN late Monday.

Navalny would be running against incumbent President Vladimir Putin, who announced his intention to seek re-election — his fourth presidential bid — as an independent candidate at his annual press conference earlier this month.

At the time, he said his aim was for Russia to have a “competitive” and “balanced” political system, but it wasn’t his responsibility to create political opponents.

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SOURCE: CNN, Dakin Andone and Mary Ilyushina