Russia’s main election authority has refused to allow a politician opposing Moscow’s military action in Ukraine on the ballot for the upcoming presidential election.
Boris Nadezhdin, a local legislator in a town near Moscow, was required by law to gather at least 100,000 signatures in support of his candidacy.
The Central Election Commission declared more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Mr Nadezhdin’s campaign invalid, which was enough to disqualify him.
Russia’s election rules say potential candidates can have no more than 5% of their submitted signatures thrown out.
Mr Nadezhdin, 60, has openly called for a halt to the conflict in Ukraine and for starting a dialogue with the West.
Thousands of Russians lined up across the country last month to sign papers in support of his candidacy, an unusual show of opposition sympathies in the country’s rigidly controlled political landscape.
Speaking at the Election Commission on Thursday, Mr Nadezhdin asked election authorities to postpone the decision and to give him more time to rebut their arguments, but they declined.
The politician said he would challenge his disqualification in court.
“It’s not me standing here,” Mr Nadezhdin said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens who put their signatures down for me are behind me.”
The presidential election is scheduled for March 15-17.
President Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win re-election given his tight control of Russia’s political system.
Most of the opposition figures who might have challenged him have been either imprisoned or exiled abroad, and the vast majority of independent Russian media outlets have been banned.
Exiled opposition activists threw their weight behind Mr Nadezhdin last month, urging their supporters to sign his nomination petitions.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the Kremlin does not view Mr Nadezhdin as “a rival” for the incumbent president.