A former television journalist, Yekaterina Duntsova, who declared her intention to challenge President Putin in Russia’s upcoming spring election, has been disqualified from running. Duntsova, an independent politician, aimed to run on a platform advocating for an end to the conflict with Ukraine. The electoral commission unanimously rejected her candidacy, citing 100 “mistakes” on her application submitted just three days prior.

In response to the decision, Duntsova announced her plans to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court. The presidential election, scheduled for March 2024, marks Russia’s first since President Putin initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. The swift rejection of a Putin critic underscores concerns that dissent will not be tolerated during the electoral campaign.

Ella Pamfilova, the head of Russia’s electoral commission, informed Duntsova that she would not progress to the next stage of gathering supporters’ signatures. Pamfilova offered words of encouragement, stating, “You are a young woman, you have everything ahead of you. Any minus can always be turned into a plus. Any experience is still an experience.”

Duntsova, 40, had announced her candidacy in November, expressing her determination despite potential fears. Russia’s constitution was amended in 2020, extending the presidential term to six years and enabling Putin to run for reelection with a clean slate.

The electoral commission’s decision comes amidst a history of sidelining opposition figures in Moscow. President Putin is widely expected to secure victory in March, with the Kremlin asserting genuine support among the Russian populace.

Duntsova’s campaign had centered on ending the conflict in Ukraine and securing the release of political prisoners. Following the commission’s decision, she promptly declared on her Telegram channel that an appeal would be made to the Supreme Court, asserting that the ruling was not grounded in law.

The electoral commission reported that 29 individuals have submitted candidacy filings, but with today’s decision, Putin remains the sole candidate able to register officially. In a related development, a nationalist pro-war blogger, Igor Girkin, who had criticized Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine, expressed his intention to challenge Putin in November. However, Girkin was detained in July and is currently in jail awaiting trial for extremism.

Despite the political climate, Putin recently demonstrated a rare instance of responsiveness to public pressure by exempting eggs and chicken from all import taxes, thereby reducing their cost. With only three months remaining until the election, Putin’s decision reflects a strategic response to public concerns.