Russian authorities on Thursday banned from the presidential race the only candidate who had openly contested President Vladimir V. Putin’s hold on power in Russia, and who called the decision to invade Ukraine a “fatal mistake.”
The move by Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, the body that administers elections in Russia, was the latest predictable twist in a campaign that few doubt will result in Mr. Putin’s re-election in March.
Mr. Putin’s expected victory in the March 15-17 presidential election would secure him a fifth term in the Kremlin, cementing his rule as one of the longest and most consequential in Russian history.
The commission’s dismissal of the antiwar candidate, Boris B. Nadezhdin, demonstrated how the Kremlin has decided to remove all contenders who deviate from the party line. Mr. Nadezhdin had made his intention to stop the war in Ukraine central to his campaign, drawing thousands of supporters across Russia.
More than 112 million people, including in occupied areas of Ukraine, have the right to vote in the election, and about 65 percent of them are expected to do so based on the turnout in previous elections.
Instead of an election, analysts say the upcoming vote will mainly be a referendum on Mr. Putin’s policies — most of all his decision to invade Ukraine two years ago.
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