Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Calls by Russian opposition leader Alexi Navalny for citizens to boycott the country's presidential election might be illegal, President Vladimir Putin's office said Tuesday.
"Appeals for a boycott, of course, are subject to very scrupulous examination of whether they comply with or contradict the law," he added.
Navalny was banned this week from running in Russia's 2018 presidential election -- just one day after he submitted a candidacy petition.
Navalny hoped to challenge Putin, who's effectively ruled Russia for 17 years. The Russian president is seeking his fourth term, which would allow him to stay in power until 2024.
Putin, 65, is widely expected to win the vote, becoming Russia's longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin.
Officials said Navalny was barred over a conviction earlier this year in connection to an embezzlement scheme. The opposition leader said he plans to appeal the ban.
Russians convicted of a serious crime are not allowed to run for elected office for ten years.
"Firstly, a citizen who has been sentenced to imprisonment for committing a grave or especially grave crime and who has an outstanding conviction for the said crime, has no right to be elected president of the Russian federation," election official Boris Ebzeev said.
After his ban was announced, Navalny called on Russians to boycott the March 18 vote.
"I assure you, a huge amount of people will not go to this election, would actively boycott this election," Navalny said.
"The procedure that we're invited to take part in is not an election. Only Putin and the candidates he has handpicked are taking part in it. Going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption."