Russian court rejects liberal politician's appeal contesting his removal from presidential race

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MOSCOW (AP) — A liberal Russian politician on Wednesday lost another appeal against election officials' decision to bar him from running in next month’s presidential vote in which President Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win another six-year term.

Boris Nadezhdin had made a call for halting the conflict in Ukraine his main campaign slogan and authorities' refusal to register him for the race underlined the Kremlin's repugnance of any public opposition to its action.

Wednesday's court verdict that turned down Nadezhdin's appeal follows Friday's death of chief Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny in a remote Arctic prison that caused global outrage and dealt a heavy blow to the beleaguered Russian opposition.

After a day of deliberations, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled to reject Nadezhdin’s appeal against the Central Election Commission's decision to bar him from the March 15-17 presidential election. The court previously turned down his two other appeals related to technical aspects of the commission's move.

Nadezhdin said he would appeal the ruling.

Thousands of Russians across the country signed petitions in support of Nadezhdin’s candidacy, an unusual show of support in the rigidly controlled political landscape. Nadezhdin, a local legislator from a town near Moscow, submitted 105,000 signatures to the Central Election Commission to qualify for the race.

The commission declared earlier this month that more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Nadezhdin’s campaign were invalid — enough to disqualify him. Russia’s election rules say potential candidates can have no more than 5% of their submitted signatures thrown out.

Putin, 71, who is running as an independent candidate, relies on a tight control over Russia’s political system that he has established during 24 years in power.

With prominent critics who could challenge him either jailed or living abroad and most independent media banned, Putin’s reelection is all but assured. He faces a token opposition from three other candidates nominated by Kremlin-friendly parties represented in parliament.