Russian opposition leader launches presidential campaign despite conviction

Moscow, Feb 18 (IANS) Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny launched a presidential campaign in Siberia on Saturday despite a conviction that prevents him from facing President Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential elections.

Navalny was handed a five-year suspended sentence by a Russian court on February 8 for embezzlement at a local timber company, an offence for which he had already been sentenced in 2013, Efe news reported.

“There is no doubt that the sentence will remain firm, but I also have no doubt that we will revoke it in the European Court of Human Rights,” Navalny said when he opened his election office in Novosibirsk, a key Siberian city.

The opposition leader, who on Friday appealed his conviction, said that he will also appeal to the Constitutional Court to repeal the law that prevents candidates with criminal record from running for election, Efe news reported.

He also said that he wants to become the presidential candidate of all opposition to the Kremlin, not only for the most critical extra-parliamentary parties.

“I think the right thing would be to present a single candidacy,” he said adding that if he participates in those primaries and lost, he will support the winner.

However, Communists, Ultra-nationalists and the Social Democrats, the only three opposition parties with parliamentary representation, have already rejected his proposal to introduce a single candidate.

Navalny, who announced his candidacy for the presidency in December 2016 before his conviction, will soon open another office for his campaign in Yekaterinburg, capital of the Urals, but he will not do so in either Crimea or Chechnya due to police pressure.