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Freed Russian Activist Calls for Boycott of Presidential Elections

FILE - Russian opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov waves in a court room prior to a hearing in the Bolotnaya Square protest trial in Moscow, July 24, 2014. Udaltsov said, Aug. 10, 2017, that he is encouraging activists to boycott next year's elections.

A Russian activist freed from prison this week after serving a four-and-a-half-year term said he plans to keep pressuring President Vladimir Putin, and he is encouraging activists to boycott next year’s elections.

Speaking Thursday at a press conference, Leftist Russian opposition figure Sergei Udaltsov said Russian elections are “dishonest” and called for a “consolidated boycott of the elections.”

"The authorities change electoral law like a swindler. They cut off candidates they don't like from the polls,” he told reporters.

The 40-year-old Udaltsov led a banned leftist organization in street protests in 2011 and 2012 to oppose Putin’s election to a third presidential term. He was convicted in 2014 of fomenting mass riots and served his prison term in full.

Udaltsov said Thursday he would avoid participating in any street-level protests, but he would continue to oppose Putin’s government and press forward in support of various social issues.

“It would be short-sighted of me in my position to come out all guns blazing and call for people to protest,” he said. “You would laugh at me and think I lost my mind — that I spent too much time in jail and now I call for others to protest again.”

While Udaltsov said he would not engage in street protests, he did say he still would be active in the movement and “by fall you will hear about our protests and about our campaign.”

Putin is widely expected to run again in the March presidential contest, with his strongest opposition coming from Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption politician. Navalny has announced his intentions to run, though he may be unable to participate given his arrest record.

Udaltsov said he would not support Navalny in the upcoming election.