Acclaimed Russian filmmaker Andrei Zyvagintsev on Friday slammed President Vladimir Putin for hindering opposition leader Alexei Navalny's bid to run for the Kremlin next year.
Speaking in a video posted online by Navalny's campaign team ahead of a planned series of protests on Saturday, one of Russia's most prominent directors also criticised the prospect of polls where "we are asked to choose one out of one."
"There's no human dignity here, when in front of your eyes, an opponent is disposed off in such a wilful, mediocre and disgusting way," said Zvyagintsev whose films are known for biting social commentary.
"It's just revolting watching this spectacle," he said, adding that Putin with his soaring approval ratings has no reason to fear opposition candidates.
"Why are you afraid of open political battle? You have no reason to be afraid of them."
Zvyagintsev is one of Russia's most successful film directors and his films have won prizes at Venice and Cannes festivals.
His 2015 film "Leviathan" was nominated for an Oscar and Russia has submitted his latest work "Loveless," for next year's awards.
The 41-year-old Navalny is currently serving a 20-day jail term for violating rules on organising demonstrations, the third such sentence he has served this year.
He has urged protesters to take to the streets across Russia on Saturday to mark Putin's 65th birthday.
Russia's electoral authorities have said Navalny is not eligible to stand for president because he is serving a suspended sentence for fraud.
The charismatic anti-corruption campaigner is nonetheless organising supporters in cities round the country to back his bid.
He has faced constant stream of legal hold ups and searches as well as physical violence and attacks on campaign offices.
The campaign has not yet officially begun and Putin has not confirmed his candidacy in polls that could extend his rule to 2024, saying this week he has not decided whether to stand.
© 2017 AFP