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Putin foe handed 5-year suspended sentence for embezzlement

Moscow, Feb 8:  Russia’s main opposition leader Alexei valny has been held guilty of embezzlement and handed a five-year suspended sentence on Wednesday that bars him from running for President in 2018 against Vladimir Putin, the media reported.

The Kremlin critic denied the charges and said he will appeal against the verdict, the BBC reported. valny also vowed to take part in the presidential race regardless.

His conviction came in a retrial after the European Court of Human Rights ruled the first trial to be unfair.

Reacting to the sentence, valny said: “We don’t recognise this ruling. I have every right to take part in the election according to the Constitution and I will do so.”

He also said the sentence in the case, which he claimed is politically motivated, was a sign that the Kremlin considered him to be too dangerous. In addition to the suspended sentence, he and a co-defendant were both handed a 500,000 rouble ($8,500) fine.

valny, 40, is known for his anti-corruption campaign, which targeted senior officials close to the Kremlin. He said the case against him is an effort to keep him out of politics.

He had recently stepped up his political activity after announcing plans in 2016 to run for the presidency in 2018. Putin is allowed by the Constitution to run for a second consecutive six-year term, but he has not said yet if he plans to do so. valny’s rise as a force in Russian politics began in 2008 when he started blogging about alleged malpractice and corruption at some of Russia’s big state-controlled corporations. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita