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Russian court rejects opposition leader's bid to oust election rival

Russia's opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny (C) gestures as he speaks in Moscow July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Russia's opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny (C) gestures as he speaks in Moscow July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court rejected an attempt by opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday to have his main pro-Kremlin rival thrown out of Moscow's mayoral election race.

Navalny is running for mayor to try to show that President Vladimir Putin's opponents have popular support, even though he will be sent to prison if an appeal against his five-year sentence last month on theft charges fails.

Navalny's lawyers said Sergei Sobyanin, the acting Moscow mayor and a Kremlin ally, had violated election rules by failing to receive Putin's formal consent to run in the September 8 poll.

The judge rejected the appeal after Sobyanin's lawyers produced a document which they said bore Putin's signature.

"We are not satisfied with this process because the judge refused to take into account our arguments," Navalny's lawyer, Nikolai Kuznetsov, said at the Moscow courtroom.

Kuznetsov said the document Sobyanin's lawyers provided was not the original and had no legal force.

The election pits the man who emerged as the opposition's informal leader in protests last year against an experienced politician who was appointed by the Kremlin as Moscow mayor in October 2010 and has been touted as a potential prime minister.

Opinion polls suggest Navalny, 37, has no chance of winning. He is also in danger of being disqualified following accusations that he has violated election rules by receiving funding for his campaign from abroad.

Navalny denies the accusations. He also says the theft charges he was found guilty of last month were fabricated.

(Reporting by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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