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Russian Supreme Court Rejects Sobchak's Bid To Strike Putin From Ballot

Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak attends a hearing at the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow on February 16.

The Russian Supreme Court has rejected presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak’s bid to remove incumbent Vladimir Putin from the ballot in the country's March 18 election.

In a widely expected decision, Judge Nikolai Romanenkov ruled on February 16 that the Central Election Commission acted within the law when it registered Putin as a candidate.

Putin, who was president for two four-year terms in 2000-08 and was elected to a six-year term in 2012 after a stint as prime minister, is seeking a fourth term in the upcoming vote.

His high approval ratings and control over the levers of power make his victory a foregone conclusion in Russia, where government critics say election campaigns and results are manipulated by authorities.

Sobchak, one of seven other candidates on the ballot, contended that Putin continued to serve as de facto chief executive in 2008-2012, when he was prime minister and Dmitry Medvedev was president.

That, she argued, means that Putin has violated the constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential terms and is ineligible to run in the election.

Sobchak told the court that Putin and Medvedev "feigned" their job switch in 2008 under a deal that was "aimed to keep one person in power" and "should be pronounced void."'

Election commission representative Dmitry Voronin argued that Putin has abided by the limit of two straight terms, and the court agreed.

Government opponents and legal experts say that Russia's courts lack independence and do the Kremlin's bidding.

Sobchak said the ruling was expected and vowed to appeal.

Critics of Sobchak have accused her of helping the Kremlin portray what opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has called Putin's "reappointment" as a competitive election.

The Central Election Commission barred Navalny from the ballot due to a financial-crime conviction that he contends was the result of fabricated evidence.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Rapsinews, TASS, and Interfax
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