Navalny pulls out of Moscow polls, calls for boycott

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is pulling out of the Moscow mayoral race and is calling on his supporters to boycott the vote, his election chief said Thursday.

"A decision has been made to boycott the elections," Leonid Volkov told AFP, saying Navalny has decided to quit the race.

The announcement came just hours after Navalny was sentenced by a Russian court to five years in a penal colony on embezzlement charges.

Volkov said Navalny would formally notify the Moscow Election Commission of his decision shortly.

"It would be strange if we participated in some sort of beating, turned the other cheek," Volkov said separately in televised remarks, referring to the mayoral race.

The Election Commission on Wednesday registered Navalny, the 37-year-old leader of the protest movement against President Vladimir Putin, as a candidate to run in mayoral polls on September 8.

The move was seen as an ominous sign, with critics saying Navalny would never have been allowed to campaign had he had any real chance at standing in the tightly-controlled vote.

An opinion poll by the independent Levada Centre showed that current Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin is set to retain the post with 78 percent of the vote.

Navalny was expected to come second with eight percent.