FIRST AIRED: February 8, 2017

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00:00:01
>> A leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin is now likely barred from a bid to become the country's next Head of State. Alexei Navalny found guilty of embezzlement in a retrial after Russia's Supreme Court overturned a previous conviction against him last year. Now, he's been handed a second suspended five year sentence.
00:00:22
He had just opened his first regional campaign office last week and might have faced Putin himself in the vote, the President expected to seek a fourth term. Navalny is accused of mishandling the funds of a timber company in 2013. But he says the case is politically motivated. Putin allies have long painted him as a foreign-funded subversive.
00:00:44
And the European Court of Human Rights said his first trial had not been conducted fairly. When it was overturned, Russia's Supreme Court sent that case back to the same judiciary that originally found him guilty. Reuters' Moscow Bureau Chief, Christian Lowe.>> There are risks that go with Navalny not taking part in the presidential election.
00:01:04
There are a significant number of people in the Kremlin and around Putin who are really keen to lend this election an air of legitimacy to persuade people this really is an election. And that if Putin wins it, affects the outcome fairly and squarely against serious challengers. In order for that to happen, you need to have serious challengers.
00:01:22
Without him there, you've got less of an air of legitimacy.>> Navalny rose to prominence during 2012's mass anti-government protests in Moscow. He says he's going to keep up his crusade and appeal.>> My plan is always the same, to fight for a free Russia. We have no other plan regardless of the trial.
00:01:43
>> If he manages to stay in the race, it will likely still be an uphill battle. Opinion polls put him far behind Putin.