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Russian officials bar Navalny from running for president

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian election officials have formally barred Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president.

The Central Election Commission voted on Monday that the anti-corruption crusader isn’t eligible to run.

Navalny is implicitly barred from running for office because of a conviction in a fraud case which has been viewed as political retribution. He could have run if he was given a special dispensation or if his conviction was cancelled.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who submitted endorsement papers necessary for his registration as a presidential candidate, center, sits at the Russia’s Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. Election officials are expected to deliver a ruling whether to allow Navalny clear the first hurdle in his election campaign and allow him to run for president. (Evgeny Feldman/Navalny Campaign via AP)

Incumbent Vladimir Putin is running for a fourth term in office and is wildly expected to win the March 18 election.

Navalny has vowed to lead a campaign to boycott the vote if he isn’t allowed on the ballot.

Navalny is the most serious challenger that Putin has faced in all of his years in power.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, leaves the Russia's Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. The 41-year-old anti-corruption crusader has run a yearlong grass-roots campaign and staged waves of rallies to push the Kremlin to let him run. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, leaves the Russia’s Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. The 41-year-old anti-corruption crusader has run a yearlong grass-roots campaign and staged waves of rallies to push the Kremlin to let him run. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, leaves the Russia's Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. The 41-year-old anti-corruption crusader has run a yearlong grass-roots campaign and staged waves of rallies to push the Kremlin to let him run. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, leaves the Russia’s Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. The 41-year-old anti-corruption crusader has run a yearlong grass-roots campaign and staged waves of rallies to push the Kremlin to let him run. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

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