President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Wednesday that he would seek a fourth term as president of Russia in a vote set for March, an election he is expected to win handily.
He made the long-anticipated announcement on the floor of a GAZ Group vehicle factory in the northern industrial city of Nizhny Novgorod, delivering a brief statement in the seemingly spontaneous yet carefully choreographed manner he favors for major public appearances.
It began with a factory worker climbing onto the stage set up for the occasion to ask Mr. Putin if he would run for re-election, saying, “Today in this hall everybody, without exception, supports you. Give us a gift, announce your decision!”
With the hall erupting in cheers of “Gaz supports you!” Mr. Putin said he would run. “There is no better space and no better occasion to announce this,” he said. “I will run for the presidency of the Russian Federation.”
Mr. Putin is expected to cruise to re-election, not least because of his immense popularity and the extraordinary barriers to outsider candidates.
His strongest rival, the anti-corruption crusader Aleksei Navalny, has been barred from running because of a series of criminal cases that he says are politically motivated. Mr. Navalny has established more than 80 campaign offices across Russia in an effort to force the government to let him register, but analysts consider that highly unlikely because Mr. Putin knows that Mr. Navalny would try to use the race to embarrass him over issues like corruption.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Neil MacFarquhar