Russia’s Central Election Commission on Monday barred Opposition leader and President Vladimir Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny from contesting the 2018 presidential elections, Reuters reported. As many as 12 of the 13 members of the commission voted to bar Navalny, citing a suspended prison sentence he has received.

Navalny has been jailed three times in 2017 in an embezzlement case, and charged with breaking the law by repeatedly organising public rallies and meetings. He denies any wrongdoing.

In response to the ban, Navalny urged his supporters to boycott the elections scheduled for March 18. “We knew this could happen, and so we have a straight-forward, clear plan,” Navalny said in a video. “We announce a boycott of the election. The process in which we are called to participate is not a real election. It will feature only Putin and the candidates which he has personally selected.”

Navalny said he would use his campaign headquarters across Russia to support the boycott and monitor voting on election day.

Before the election commission voted, the Opposition leader had said that the faith of Russian voters in the electoral system hung on whether he was allowed to contest. “If you do not allow me to run, you are taking a decision against millions of people who are demanding that Navalny take part,” he said. “You are not robots, you are living, breathing human beings. You are an independent body ... for once in your lives, do the right thing.”

However, Boris Ebzeev, one of the commission’s officials, said, “We are talking about the law and abiding by the law.” He claimed that there was not the “slightest doubt” that Navalny was unfit to run for office.