Recasts with quotes in paragraphs 4-5, context, details
MOSCOW, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Russian anti-war presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin said on Thursday he would appeal to the Supreme Court after the Central Election Commission (CEC) barred him from a March election expected to be easily won by incumbent Vladimir Putin.
The CEC had previously saidthat it had found flaws in signatures that Nadezhdin and his allies had collected in support of his candidacy and that some of the purported signatures were those of dead people.
Nadezhdin said on his official Telegram channel that he did not agree with the CEC's decision and would challenge it in Russia's Supreme Court.
"I collected more than 200,000 signatures across Russia. We conducted the collection openly and honestly - the queues at our headquarters and collection points were watched by the whole world," Nadezhdin said.
"Taking part in the presidential election in 2024 is the most important political decision of my life. I am not giving up on my intentions."
Nobody had expected Nadezhdin, 60, to win. The victory of 71-year-old Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since the end of 1999 and controls all the state's levers, is widely seen as a foregone conclusion.
But Nadezhdin had surprised some analysts with his trenchant criticism of what the Kremlin calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine, something he calls "a fatal mistake" and had said he would try to end through negotiations.
Kremlin critics say Nadezhdin, who has been a regular guest on state TV programmes discussing the war, would not have been allowed to get as far as he did in such a tightly controlled political system without the authorities' blessing, something he denies.
The Kremlin had said it did not see Nadezhdin as a serious rival to Putin, who it says will win the election on the basis of overwhelming popular support.
As a candidate nominated by a political party, Nadezhdin needed to gather 100,000 signatures across at least 40 regions in order to stand in the March 15-17 election.
Putin, who has chosen to run as an independent rather than as the candidate of the ruling United Russia party, needs 300,000 signatures. He has already collected over 3.5 million, according to his supporters.
(Reporting by Reuters Editing by Andrew Osborn)