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Russia to probe opposition figure over election boycott campaign

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a meeting with his supporters in Moscow on December 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Authorities in Russia will launch a probe into whether opposition figure Alexei Navalny has violated Russian law by campaigning for a boycott of the next presidential election, the Kremlin says.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a Thursday press briefing that he had “no doubts” authorities would review Navalny’s appeals for a boycott to determine whether they are illegal.

“The calls for a boycott will require scrupulous study, to see whether or not they comply with the law,” Peskov said.

“The fact that one of the would-be candidates is not taking part has no bearing on the election’s legitimacy,” he added.

The remarks came after Navalny announced on Wednesday that protest rallies would be waged across Russia on January 28 to promote an “electoral strike” to object to the decision made by Russia’s Central Election Commission to bar him from the electoral contest.

The 41-year-old lawyer further said that he would use his campaign headquarters across Russia to challenge the election’s legitimacy and organize protests.

Navalny had already campaigned for his presidential bid all year despite an implicit ban on his candidacy due to a fraud conviction. He was officially disqualified from the ballot earlier this week.

Navalny has appealed the election commission’s decision to keep him off the presidential ballot. Russia’s highest court is due to consider the case on Saturday.

President Vladimir Putin, whose approval ratings have surpassed the 80-percent mark, is set to win a fourth term in the March 18 presidential poll.

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