Russia's top election official says Aleksei Navalny is almost certain to be barred from running in a March 2018 presidential election, citing a criminal conviction the opposition leader contends was engineered by the Kremlin to make him less of a political threat.
The remarks by Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova on June 14 appear unlikely to stop Navalny from campaigning ahead of the vote, in which President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to seek and secure a fourth term.
Navalny, an anticorruption crusader and Putin foe who has organized nationwide street protests twice since March, has been campaigning despite warnings from officials who have said a conviction on a financial-crimes charge means he cannot seek office.
The Supreme Court threw out the initial 2013 conviction on a large-scale embezzlement charge last year, but but Navalny was convicted again in a retrial and lost an appeal against that verdict last month.
In an interview on Russian channel Dozhd TV, Pamfilova said that Navalny "has no chance of being registered for the election due to his conviction."
Pamfilova then said that it was possible that "a miracle might happen and [Navalny] might file an appeal," but she added that he has "practically no chance of being registered."
Pamfilova did not describe a specific avenue for an appeal that could potentially enable Navalny to run in the election.
He has said he might try to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, but the ECHR often takes time to examine complaints and candidates must file registration papers at least 45 days before the March 18 election.
Navalny contends that the embezzlement case and a separate financial-crimes prosecution that also ended in a guilty verdict were politically motivated, state-mandated punishment for his opposition activity.