Vladimir Putin’s biggest political opponent Alexei Navalny has been formally blocked from running against the Russian President in next year’s presidential election.
Russia’s central election commission said he had been ruled out because he was subject to a suspended prison sentence.
The decision, which was widely expected, comes after the Russian opposition leader’s supporters turned out in their thousands across the country to endorse the politician on Sunday.
Twelve of the 13 members of the commission voted to block the 41-year-old, with one abstaining, citing a possible conflict of interest.
Mr Navalny, who claims the corruption conviction against him is politically motivated, has said he plans to appeal the decision. He also called on his supporters to boycott the election.
In a pre-recorded video message, he said: “We knew this could happen, and so we have a straight-forward, clear plan.
“We announce a boycott of the election. The process in which we are called to participate is not a real election. It will feature only Putin and the candidates which he has personally selected.”
Despite Mr Navalny’s show of defiance, polls show Mr Putin is on course for a comfortable re-election, which would keep him in office for another six years.
But the opposition leader claims support for the 65-year-old is exaggerated and artificially maintained by state media.
Before the commission’s vote, Mr Navalny delivered a passionate speech demanding he be allowed to run against Mr Putin. It reportedly angered election officials.
Referring to himself in third person, he said: “If you do not allow me to run, you are taking a decision against millions of people who are demanding that Navalny take part.
“You are not robots, you are living, breathing human beings. You are an independent body… for once in your lives, do the right thing.”
One official, Boris Ebzeev, said there could not be “the slightest doubt” Mr Navalny was ineligible to run.
He added: “We’re talking about the law and abiding by the law.”
The opposition leader denies any wrongdoing with regards to his conviction.