Russian opposition leader Navalny sues Putin over rally refusals
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is suing President Vladimir Putin over authorities' repeated refusals to sanction rallies for his supporters.
The Tverskoy court in Moscow confirmed it had received Mr Navalny's lawsuit against Mr Putin.
Mr Navalny alleges that the president ordered local officials to withhold permission for the rallies because the Russian leader fears facing him as a challenger in next March's presidential election.
Mr Putin has not said if he will seek another six-year term, but he is widely expected to run.
Mr Navalny has said he intends to join the race even though a criminal conviction that he calls politically motivated prohibits his candidacy.
To pressure the Kremlin into letting him run, the anti-corruption crusader has organised a grassroots campaign to support his presidential bid and staged waves of protests this year.
He said on YouTube he has no doubt that Mr Putin personally directed local officials to deny permission for the rallies, adding: "He's afraid of our campaign."
The Interior Ministry issued a statement saying Mr Navalny's supporters in several cities across Russia had received official permission to hold rallies but failed to show up for them.
Mr Putin's approval ratings top 80%, which should ensure a landslide victory against a familiar set of luckless veterans of past presidential campaigns. The Russian government, however, has been worried about increasing voter apathy.
Last month, celebrity TV host Ksenia Sobchak declared her intention to run for president. Observers said the move could split the opposition ranks and also play into the Kremlin's hands by helping raise public interest in the March 18 vote.