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Russia Vladimir Putin Elections

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Russian lawyer Alexei Navalny submits candidacy for president

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny at meeting in Moscow to uphold his presidential bid, 24 December 2017. Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

Over 15,000 Russians have endorsed the candidacy of Alexei Navalny, who is seen as the only opposition leader in Russia who stands a chance of challenging President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming presidential election in March.

Speaking in Moscow on Sunday, Navalny declared "an election without us is not an election," ahead of submitting his nomination to the Central Electoral Commission, which will rule whether or not he can run.

Russian authorities have deemed the 41-year-old ineligible to run due to a criminal conviction, saying "only a miracle" would help him get registered.

Critics of President Vladimir Putin believe the conviction to be politically motivated.

Thousands of Russian's backing the potential opposition candidate met in 20 cities from the Pacific port of Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg in the northwest to nominate him as their choice in the presence of electoral officials, in an apparent bid to boost his chances of contesting the 18 March vote.

According to his campaign team, more than 15,000 people endorsed him nationwide and under Russian law an independent candidate needs 500 votes to be registered with election authorities.

This comes as President Putin announced earlier this month that he will seek a fourth presidential term, which would extend his rule until 2024.

This would make him the longest-serving Russian leader since dictator Joseph Stalin.