Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that he will run for re-election next year, state media reported.
Putin has been in power either as president or prime minister for nearly two decades and will likely win another six-year term in the election, scheduled for March.
“Yes, I will run for the post of president of the Russian Federation,” Putin said at a meeting with veterans and workers at the GAZ automotive factory in the central city of Nizhny Novgorod, according to comments carried by state news agency TASS.
Putin said there was no better occasion to announce his candidacy, telling the crowd: “Thank you for the support.”
GAZ has been a pillar of the domestic automotive industry since it was founded in the 1930s. The factory was a key producer of armaments during World War II and survived heavy bombardment by Axis forces.
Putin hinted at running for re-election earlier in the day at an event in Moscow, where he drummed up support among young adults. Putin asked the crowd whether they would support him in the election. The crowd roared with applause.
Putin has maintained popularity with the majority of Russians in recent years despite economic hardships and rising tensions with the West.
He has cultivated a reputation for prolonging stability in the country, in comparison with the turbulence that followed the Soviet Union’s dissolution in the 1990s.
Russia’s largest independent pollster, Levada Centre, said this week that 58 per cent of Russians planned to vote in the 2018 election, according to a nationwide survey.
That was down from 75 per cent ahead of the 2008 election, when current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev became president for one term. Medvedev stepped aside in 2012 to let Putin retake the helm.
Of those respondents who said they would vote this time around, 67 per cent said they would vote for Putin.