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article imageRussia orders closure of Navalny campaign fund

By AFP     Jan 22, 2018 in Politics

Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday suffered a new blow in his bid to convince Russians to boycott March presidential polls when a court ordered the closure of the foundation behind his political activities.

The charismatic opposition leader used the foundation to finance his failed attempt to run against President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming election and was planning on its support in his call for a "voters' strike".

Moscow's Meshchansky district court issued the ruling following a request from the justice ministry to pull the plug on the Fifth Season of the Year Foundation citing various irregularities, spokeswoman Yulia Kotomina said.

Navalny -- seen by many as the only genuine opposition to Putin -- was barred last month from running for the presidency because of a fraud conviction he says was politically motivated.

Putin, who was first elected president in 2000, is widely expected to win a fourth term and extend his Kremlin term until 2024.

After electoral officials rejected his bid, Navalny, 41, said he would use all means at his disposable -- including campaign offices across the country and more than 200,000 volunteers -- to try to persuade as many Russians as possible to boycott the polls.

Ruslan Shaveddinov, spokesman for Navalny's campaign, said they would appeal the ruling.

"Even if we have to shutter the fund, nothing will stop," he told AFP.

"The campaign will continue: we are training monitors and we are getting ready for a voter strike."

Navalny has called a major protest for Sunday.

Asked last year why Navalny had been barred from running, Putin -- who has refused to mention him by name in public -- said the opposition was hoping for a "coup" but would not succeed.

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