Russia's Central Election Commission barred blogger Alexei Navalny from participating in the March 2018 presidential election due to a corruption conviction, dimming the opposition's prospects to challenge President Vladimir Putin, multiple media reports noted.
Navalny, who claims that his conviction was politically motivated, asked his supporters to boycott the March vote, BBC reported. He said he would file an appeal in the constitutional court, adding that he would lead protests across the country.
The European External Action Service, which manages the EU's diplomatic relations with other countries outside the bloc, said the decision to bar Navalny from taking part in the election "casts a serious doubt on political pluralism in Russia and the prospect of democratic elections next year." The EU's diplomatic service added that the European Court of Human Rights found Navalny to have been denied the right to a fair trial in his prosecution in 2013.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said that banning Navalny "can in no way affect the legitimacy of the election," the AFP reported.