The Russian Central Electoral Commission's decision stating that Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny cannot run in the 2018 national Presidential elections due to an alleged past conviction casts a serious doubt on political pluralism in Russia and the prospect of democratic elections next year.
Mr Navalny, who has been sentenced on charges of embezzlement, 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 for the same charges.
Politically-motivated charges should not be used against political participation. We expect the Russian authorities to ensure that there is a level playing field, including in the presidential elections that will take place on 18 March.
We also expect the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to be invited to observe these elections. The European Union will base its assessment of the electoral process on their findings, as we have done in the past.