MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday declared his intention to seek re-election in March, a vote that will surely win.
The Russian leader chose an enthusiastic audience of the workers of the GAZ car factory in Nizhny Novgorod to make the announcement.
"I could not find a place and a better time for that," he said, receiving massive applause. "Thank you for your support, I will introduce myself to the presidency."
Putin has been in power in Russia since 2000. He served in two presidential terms in 2000-2008, then moved to the prime minister's presidency due to term limits, but continued to call the shots, while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, served as position marker president. Medvedev extended the presidential mandate to six years and then resigned to let Putin regain the presidency in 2012.
Although few doubted that Putin would appear in the March 18 vote, a delay in announcing his offer was considered part of The political maneuvers of the Kremlin.
Putin's approval ratings exceed 80 percent, which guarantees an easy victory in the first round. Blue collar workers and state employees are at the core of their support base.
"Thank you for your work, for your attitude towards your jobs, your factory, your city and your country!" Putin told the workers. "I'm sure that together we will triumph."
Just hours earlier, Putin was asked about his intentions at a meeting with young volunteers in Moscow. He said he would decide shortly if he would seek another six-year period.
The upper house of parliament is expected to officially launch the electoral campaign later this month.
Veterans of past campaigns: communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky, all have declared their intention to run. They are likely to be joined by Ksenia Sobchak, a star television host who is the daughter of the late former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin's boss in the 1990s.
Putin's most visible enemy, Alexei Navalny, also wants to run, although a condemnation he calls political motivations forbids him to join the campaign. He has organized a grassroots campaign and organized rallies throughout Russia to increase pressure on the Kremlin to register for the race.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.