Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he would seek re-election in next March's national election. He made the announcement at a meeting with workers of the GAZ factory in Nizny Novgorod. Several hours earlier, he was asked about his intentions in Moscow and signaled that he would run but stopped short of declaring his bid.
With his approval ratings topping 80 percent, Putin is certain to win a quick victory in the March 18 vote.
Addressing the automobile factory workers, Putin said he couldn't find a better place and a better moment to announce his candidacy.
The veterans of past campaigns - Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky - all have declared their intention to run. They will likely be joined by, a star TV host who is the daughter of late former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin's boss in the 1990s.
The most visible Putin foe,, even though a conviction he calls politically motivated bars him from joining the campaign. He has organized a grassroots campaign and staged rallies across Russia to raise pressure on the Kremlin to let him register for the race.
Putin has been in power in Russia since 2000. He served two presidential terms in 2000-2008, then shifted into the prime minister's seat because of term limits, but continued calling the shots while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, served as placeholder president. Medvedev had the presidential term extended to six years and then stepped down to let Putin reclaim the presidency in 2012.