Moscow - The European Union on Tuesday condemned Russian authorities' decision to prohibit opposition politician Alexei Navalny from running as a formal candidate in next year's presidential election.
Restrictions on opposition
The decision, based on a previous criminal conviction, "casts a serious doubt on political pluralism in Russia and the prospect of democratic elections next year," the EU's foreign policy service said in a statement.
Navalny, who led a protest movement against Russia's leadership in recent years, has challenged long-time President Vladimir Putin in the March election.
Putin, who has been in power for more than a decade and a half, is widely expected to win another six-year term.
A predictable win for Putin
Election authorities on Monday prohibited Navalny from running because of the previous conviction on financial charges.
Navalny has denied wrongdoing and condemned the conviction as trumped up to thwart his political ambitions.
Navalny "has been judged by the European Court of Human Rights to have been denied the right to a fair trial in his prosecution in 2013," the European External Action Service said.
"Politically motivated charges should not be used against political participation," the statement said.
After his candidacy was refused, Navalny retaliated by calling for his supporters to boycott the election. The Kremlin responded by suggesting an inquiry into the legality of such a call.
Authorities should thoroughly assess whether it is against the law, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state