Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has his sights set on challenging Vladimir Putin after thousands of supporters turned out to endorse him for the presidency.
About 800 people gathered in Moscow as they prepared to file a nomination of the hopeful, who is barred from running because of a corruption conviction.
The nominations come in a bid to put pressure on the Kremlin to let the 41-year-old run.
As it stands, he would need a special dispensation or to have his conviction, which he claims is politically motivated, overturned.
The formal endorsement meeting in Moscow was observed by election officials on Sunday as supporters took part in 19 other endorsement rallies across the country.
Mr Navalny’s representative is now due to file the papers with the election commission.
The opposition supporters’ endorsement has major significance as Russian law requires candidates to submit an endorsement from 500 people in each city before they can collect the one million signatures needed to get a place on the ballot paper.
Addressing supporters alongside his wife and children, Mr Navalny said: “We have seen for ourselves this year that overwhelming support for authorities simply isn’t there.”
Despite the show of defiance from his followers, polling agencies show support for Putin in the country at 80%.
Authorities are expected to accept Mr Navalny’s submission but it is unlikely that he will appear on the ballot.
The politician told supporters he was confident of a win should he be able to run and called on them to boycott the election if he is refused registration.
He added: “We are not going to recognise this election but we’re not going to step aside either – there will be an all-Russian strike of voters.”