Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a hearing after being detained at the protest against corruption and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at the Tverskoi court in Moscow, Russia March 27, 2017.
In November 2016, the Supreme Court overturned sentences against Navalny and Ofitserov in Kirovles embezzlement case and sent it for retrial.
Mr Navalny was found guilty of embezzlement at a trial in February - charges which would bar him from challenging Mr Putin, were he to stand again, in the 2018 election.
Navalny announced his presidential bid in December and has campaigned actively, opening campaign offices in cities nationwide.
In July 2013, Navalny was found guilty of embezzling funds from the Kirovles company, located in the central part of European Russia, and given a five-year suspended sentence as part of the case.
Footage of the incident, the second time Mr Navalny had suffered such an assault in as many months, was shown on a pro-government TV channel. But he said he was unable to get treatment in a specialised clinic in Switzerland or Spain because of a foreign travel ban imposed over what he says is a politically-motivated embezzlement conviction.
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Gleb Pavlovsky, a political consultant who worked for the Kremlin until 2011, said the authorities appear likely to prevent Navalny from running in 2018, since a campaign could give him too much national exposure even if he lost.
According to the investigation, Navalny and Ofitserov forced state-run company Kirovles to sell 10,000 cubic meters of timber worth 16 million rubles to the Vyatka Timber Company at a lower price.
Navalny and his supporters often stressed that the case is political, but representatives of the Russian government deny this.
However, opinion polls suggest he would stand little chance of beating Mr Putin, who continues to enjoy favourable ratings.
"No one said it would be easy". "Navalny has the right to run, but ensuring he is able to exercise it won't be easy".