MOSCOW — Dec 6, 2017, 2:20 PM ET

Putin announces 2018 re-election bid, ends long speculation

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would seek re-election next year in a race he is poised to win easily, putting him on track to become the nation's longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Putin's approval ratings regularly top 80 percent, making him all but certain to win the March election by a broad margin. While few doubted the 65-year-old leader would run, the delay in his declaring so fueled some conspiracy theories and was seen as the Kremlin's political maneuvering.

The 65-year-old Russian leader's potential rivals include several luckless candidates from past contests and a notable newcomer — TV host Ksenia Sobchak, 36, the daughter of Putin's one-time boss.

The president chose to make his re-election announcement at the GAZ automobile factory in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. The factory is a symbol of Russian's industrial might, and Putin found an enthusiastic audience in the blue-collar workers who make up the core of his base.

"I couldn't find a better place and moment," he said to massive applause at the plant. "Thank you for your support. I will run for president."

For months, Putin fended off questions about his plans for 2018, fueling speculation about why he would not say if he would seek re-election. Some theorized he might step down and name a preferred successor.

The Kremlin has been worried about growing voter apathy, and the uncertainty over Putin's plans seemed intended to encourage public interest in the race.

"It was necessary to ensure electoral mobilization," Dmitry Orlov, a political consultant close to the Kremlin, said in televised remarks.

Putin has been in power in Russia since 2000. He served two presidential terms during 2000-2008, then shifted into the prime minister's seat because of term limits. As prime minister, he still called the shots while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, served as the placeholder president.

Medvedev had the president's term extended to six years and then stepped down to let Putin reclaim the office in 2012. If Putin serves another six-year term, which would run through 2024, he would reach the milestone of having the longest tenure since Stalin, who ruled for nearly 30 years.

Earlier Wednesday, Putin was asked about his intentions at a meeting with young volunteers in Moscow. He said he would decide shortly, then showed up at the GAZ factory making his announcement.

The plant is one of the country's most emblematic industrial giants. It was built during the Soviet industrialization drive in 1932 and has churned out millions of vehicles, from vans and military trucks to Volga sedans and luxury cars for the Soviet elite.

"Thank you for your work, for your attitude to your jobs, your factory, your city and your country!" Putin told factory workers. "I'm sure that together we will succeed."

A stream of fawning comments from officials and lawmakers followed his declaration.

Chechnya's regional leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, hailed the president's announcement, saying on Instagram that only Putin can "resist a massive shameless and unprecedented" pressure by the West.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Putin's decision helped end "anxiety and tensions in the society."

The upper house is expected to authorize the start of formal election campaigning later this month.

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 Sobchak, a well-known television host who is the daughter of the late St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin's boss in the 1990s.

"I don't trust a system where Putin makes all decisions," said Sobchak, who also met with voters in Nizhny Novgorod Wednesday. "Let's believe in our ability to change the situation."

The most visible Putin foe, Alexei Navalny, also wants to join the race, even though a conviction he calls politically motivated bars him from running. He has organized a grassroots campaign and staged rallies across Russia to raise pressure on the government to allow him to run.

In a signal that the Kremlin isn't going to budge, Navalny's campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, last week was sentenced to a month in jail for staging an unauthorized rally in Nizhny Novgorod. Navalny himself spent 20 days in jail in October for organizing another rally.

"The best illustration of how elections work in Russia is my campaign chief Leonid Volkov sitting in jail just one kilometer (less than a mile) from the venue where Putin declared his bid," Navalny tweeted.

News - Putin announces 2018 re-election bid, ends long speculation

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  • paul

    Putin = Stalin

  • gypsy

    It's not like he has any real competition. Russia is akin to Zimbabwe.

  • sandman7731

    "Ends long speculation"

    Because everyone knew Putin was "on the bubble" about it. Also, speculation has come to a surprising end as to whether or not the Cleveland Browns will make the playoffs this year. Interestingly enough, it appears fans are taking it in stride. It's almost as if they expected it. Will wonders never cease???

  • Ross Barnett Rez Good'Ole Boy

    Do liberals want war with Russia? Why are they so obsessed with Russia? I'm kinda getting those vibes. Russia is not even great anymore. They were better when ruled by kings and emperors. The dirty rotten stinking commies ruined Russia.

  • MJ83199

    Now that's a shocker!

  • John Smith

    I wonder what his chances of winning are in this farcical election. Let's see, he controls the government, he controls the banks, he controls the industries, he controls who gets elected, he controls the military, he controls the judges and judiciary, he controls the KGB, he controls the media, he controls food distribution, he controls the oligarchs. It's pretty much his own little playground. I think Putin has a good shot of being re-elected. Trump must be upset that he does not have this kind of control.

  • carcar

    lol. "election".

  • Educated

    ....Im sure Trump is getting his campaign money together.

  • Texan9

    Wait, lets get trump to hack them

  • CantStoptheSignalMal

    Why even have an election. Putin is a dictator. This election, like all Russian elections are for show only. He wants to give the world the impression that his people love him while he rigs elections and murders the opposition.

  • Derek Belik

    Remember that debate between Mitt Romney and Obama where Obama said “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years" when Mitt was trying to point out the Russians were a big problem. Looks like Romney had it right after all.

  • Timehascome

    Watch Yosif Smootacoff win...and on the Big Screen in Red Square...several faces appear from the group "Anonymous"...laughing their Keyster's OFF!!!!
    "TAKE THAT PUUTY!"...would be heard on the loud speakers!!!
    See how it feels to taste his own...Medicine :-0
    Bawawawawawa!!!!!!

  • H Ruth

    Let's see since they don't have free elections in Russia I can already successfully predict the winner of the election & it's not the opposition party

  • Sonora Nomad

    Breaking news....Putin also announced Moscow, Idaho, is Russia's second capital. Trump said..."What took so long?"

  • Aimee

    "Election".

    LOL.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    The "election" is a farce. This is a dictatorship.

  • Pat Baxter

    What we need to do: In Russia find the nutjob incompetent moron equivalent of Trump and pull every dirty trick in the book to get that moron elected in Russia in 2018. (Turnabout is fair play.)

  • error_does not compute

    Shocker

  • realitycheck

    What a surprise...not.

  • Mari Marigold

    He'll win, because he's a liar and a cheat and he'll just off his opponents.

  • arlincarlson

    It's gonna be hard not give Putin a taste of his own medicine. Maybe we should return the favor and hack his election.Just a thought. Do unto others as done unto you.

  • PeterFromDuluth

    His name is Put In. He will put in himself.

  • WorkingClass

    I guess being U.S. president isn't enough for him.

  • Red Hawk

    Question is will Putin allow a viable challenger to run against him, before he has the guy arrested on one Trumped up charge or another?

  • discos jack

    Time for Trump to give back. Putin guaranteed to win.

  • Lee Thompson

    Of course Putin will run. He's at his pinnacle. He has his most hated enemy, the USA, on the downward slide, a la Trump. Putin will want to see this through.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    So if Trump votes for him, will that be seen as a positive or a negative for Putin?

  • Puddin' Twain

    No doubt Putin will win with 100% of the vote and all his opponents will be jailed or will mysteriously die.

  • nitenurse22

    I bet he wins.

  • TerminalSanity

    In Putin's Russia Putin elects to have elections elect Putin.

  • george

    Trump will be his VP.

  • tet1953

    I'm gonna bet Putin wins. Who wants to wager? I'll give you great odds!

  • Lenorenevermore

    "Thank you for your support. I will run for president." Define ‘support’ and define ‘run’. Lol what a crock!

  • SpankyHamm

    FoxNews is pleased to announced that with none of the votes counted and no polls having been conducted, that Vladimir Putin has been reelected.

  • JBump

    Democratically elected dictatorship. Russia must have a huge Republican party.

  • JohnC

    gee, I hope he does well. Maybe Trump can help him win.

  • Rascal262

    In the same way Kim Jong Un runs for reelection.

  • tet1953

    Lol bid
    Announces his reelection, more like.

  • MauiOhana808

    No one cares about Putin in the USA, except.........................donnyboy!!!
    Aloha : D

  • Teddy

    Geee....I wonder if he'll win....

  • fmd160

    Russia has elections? Okay, okay. I know they do. But does anyone that is not a blue-collar worker or state employee know, and are they even allowed to vote?

  • MuswellHill

    Well, of course he did! Did anybody seriously think he wouldn't? He is in the driver's seat now with the U.S. election interference.

  • Ka

    More of the same for Russia. Putin Is a thug. He will win the Presidency regardless if its fair or not.

  • Bob Bob

    And Putin believes he is actually elected in a fair election - it is important that if Putin believes that, then thats what he believes and there is no reason not to believe that that is what Putin believes.