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Corruption Critic Navalny to Run for Russian Presidency

FILE - Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny addresses a rally in Moscow, Sept. 20, 2015. (C. Maynes/VOA)

An anti-corruption activist has announced he will run for president of Russia in the 2018 election after a ban against him running for political office was removed last month.

Alexei Navalny, 40, is the leader of the opposition Party of Progress and has been one of the most vocal critics of current Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he accuses of graft and corruption.

Navalny made the announcement Tuesday via a video statement posted on his new campaign website.

“It's time for us to choose not only a person at elections. It's time to choose between stagnation and a program of development,” Navalny said in the video.

Navalny helped lead mass protests in December 2011, following parliamentary elections marred by electoral fraud charges, and another protest in Moscow in March 2012, following Putin's re-election as president. He heads an anti-corruption foundation that publishes documents exposing the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by state officials.

In 2013, Navalny received a five-year suspended sentence for fraud charges he says were politically motivated. Those charges initially kept Navalny from running for office, but last month Russia’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial for Navalny after ruling that his first trial was unfair.

If Navalny is convicted in the retrial, he will again be barred from running for office.

In his campaign video, Navalny says he will “fight for victory” and “discuss what everyone is silent about.” The issues Navalny is running on include what he calls the unfair distribution of wealth, an unfair court system and corruption among Russian officials.

Putin hasn’t yet made clear whether he will seek re-election in 2018.