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Putin Announces He'll Seek Reelection as Russian President in 2018

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President Vladimir Putin calendar hunting in July

President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday he would seek re-election in March 2018, a contest opinion polls show he will win comfortably, setting the stage for him to extend his dominance of Russia's political landscape into a third decade.

Putin made the remarks in what seemed to be a tightly scripted appearance at an awards ceremony for volunteer groups in Moscow on December 6.

Putin has spent a year dodging the question about whether he would run.

The appearance was shown live on state television.

Putin was president for two terms between 2000 and 2008, before paving way for his current prime minister Dimitry Medvedev who ruled for four years with Putin as PM. If he wins what would be his fourth presidential term in March, he would be eligible to serve until 2024.

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Putin, who has been in power for the past 18 years, is expected to sail to victory, with only token opponents competing against him.

"It was necessary to ensure electoral mobilization", Dmitry Orlov, a political consultant close to the Kremlin, said in televised remarks. Blue-collar workers and state employees form the core of his support base. "Thank you for your work, for your attitude to the case, for the country", he continued. Putin told factory workers.

A stream of fawning comments from officials and lawmakers quickly followed his announcement. "The decision gives us trust in a better tomorrow because our president has proven with his deeds and his service to the nation that we can do a lot".

Veterans of past campaigns _ Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky _ all have declared their intention to run. To the host's visible surprise, Putin didn't take the bait.

Russia's main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been formally barred from standing, because he was found guilty of embezzlement - a charge he claims was politically motivated.

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