A Russian court has upheld a ruling that now likely leaves the Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny barred from running for president in next year’s election. The regional court ruled in favor of a controversial embezzlement conviction Navalny received in February, the Interfax news agency reported. The court gave Navalny a five-year suspended sentence which, in accordance with Russian criminal law, prevents him from taking public office in the meantime and keeps him out of next year’s presidential race. Navalny considers the case to be politically motivated and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) called the case against him “arbitrary” and lacking a free trial last year. Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev told Interfax he intends to appeal the ruling in the ECHR, while Navalny’s campaign manager told the Mediazona news website that the campaign will continue as planned, regardless of the verdict.
Through campaigning alone, however, Navalny has already caused a stir in Russian politics over the last few months. His documentary into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s alleged secret empire of luxury assets dashed the prime minister’s approval ratings to an all time low in April and raised Navalny’s profile considerably.
Polls show Russian media mentions of Navalny since he announced the start of his campaign in December have increased five-fold, according to research group Medialogia. Only five politicians are more mentioned than him in Russia—Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump, Medvedev, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.