Russia's Vladimir Putin says he will run for president again in 2018

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has announced his intention to run for president in the elections next March. The current president is the absolute favorite to win another six-year term.

Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed he would take part in the 2018 presidential election during a Wednesday visit to a car factory in Nizhny Novgorod.

"I will put forward my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian Federation," the Kremlin chief said at a celebration attended by workers, while also thanking the workers for their support.

"With your active participation, with the participation of people like you, we will solve any, even the most difficult tasks ahead. Russia will only go forward, and this moment will never be stopped by anyone," he told the workers.

The St. Petersburg-born politician also said there was "no better place" to make his announcement.

Read more: Russian sociologist Lev Gudkov says Putin's Russia is a 'toxic state'

No vacation

Bildergalerie Putin wird 65 mit seinem Polit-Mentor Jelzin

Putin with his mentor Yeltsin at Putin's first inauguration in 2000

Putin succeeded the late Russian president Boris Yeltsin at the end of 1999. He has effectively remained the most powerful man in Russia since, including his stint as prime minister between 2008 and 2012. Putin is also a heavy favorite for winning the 2018 vote.

Another election victory would make the 65-year-old Putin the longest serving Kremlin chief since Joseph Stalin.

According to Russian law, state officials and media employees are required to take a vacation during the electoral campaign. However, the head of Russia's electoral commission Nikolai Bulaev told the Interfax news agency that the president, as a state dignitary, is not subject to this limit.

"The law does not require the current president to take a vacation," he told the agency.


From KGB to Kremlin

Putin joined the KGB, the former Soviet Union's security agency, in 1975. In the 1980s he undertook his first foreign posting as a KGB agent to Dresden, Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Putin returned to Russia and entered Boris Yeltsin's Kremlin. When Yeltsin announced that he wanted Putin as his successor, the way was paved for him to become prime minister.


First presidency

On his appointment, Putin was virtually unknown to the general public. This changed when in August 1999 armed men from Chechnya invaded the neighboring Russian territory of Dagestan. President Yeltsin appointed ex-KGB officer Putin to bring Chechnya back under the central government's control. On New Year's Eve, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and named Putin as acting president.


Tough guy in the media

During an exhibition hockey game in Sochi, Putin’s team won 18-6, with the president scoring eight goals.


Limited freedom of speech

A protester wears a tape over his mouth reading "Putin" during an opposition rally. In 2013 the Kremlin announced that the state-owned news agency, RIA Novosti, was to be restructured and placed under the control of a pro-Kremlin figure known for his extreme anti-Western views. Reporters without Borders ranked Russia as 148 in its list of 178 countries in terms of press freedom.


Putin's Image: A man of action

Putin's image as a man of action, boosted by his having been a KGB spy, has long been part of his appeal in Russia. It is carefully maintained by means of photos where he is seen bare-chested on horseback, or tossing opponents onto a judo mat. In Russia, Putin has earned praise for restoring stability but has also been accused of authoritarianism.


Stifling democracy

When President Putin's United Russia party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 2007, critics described the vote as neither free nor democratic. Dozens were detained as riot police broke up protests by demonstrators accusing President Putin of stifling democracy. In this rally the poster reads: "Thank you, no!"


Orchestrated events

In Sevastopol, Crimea, Putin looks through the window of a research bathyscaphe in the waters of the Black Sea. This dive in a mini-submarine was only one of his adventurous stunts; he has also been seen tranquilizing wild tigers and flying with endangered cranes. It was also aimed at cementing his image as an adventurer, and demonstrating his control of the annexed territory of Crimea.

Putin has managed to maintain high approval ratings despite Russia's isolation from the West.

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Gorbachev says Putin has backing in Russian society

The last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev commented on Putin's announcement on Wednesday, focusing on Putin's prolonged popularity.

"If the people believe it is possible and necessary for the current president to put forward his candidacy once again, that means this should happen," he told Interfax.

"The situation in our country is still complicated, there are many important issues to solve," he added. "And this option of Vladimir Putin going for another term is fully permissible."

At the same time, the veteran leader said it was important to make sure that governments were replaceable. "However, nobody has negated this principle yet," Gorbachev concluded.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny also commented on Putin's decision in a Russian-language tweet.

"He wants to be in power for 21 years. I would say it's a bit much. I suggest we refuse," he wrote.

Putin declares victory in Syria

Following his remarks on running for president, Putin commented on the Russian airstrikes against jihadist groups in Syria.

"Two hours ago, the defense minister reported that operations on both the east and the west bank of the Euphrates river have been completed with the complete destruction of terrorists," he said.

Read more: Putin travels  to Iran for talks on Syria, US sanctions

The Russian president also said it was time to move on to political dialogue in the war-torn state, stressing that the peace process in Syria would include presidential and parliamentary elections.

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dj/jm (Interfax, AP, Reuters)