Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that he would seek a fourth term as president of Russia in a March election that he is expected to win handily.A full, six-year term until 2024 would make his 24-year tenure including his years as prime minister the longest by a Russian leader since Joseph Stalin sat in the Kremlin for 29 years.
It is widely believed that Putin wants to use what should be his last term, barring further constitutional changes, to cement his place as one of the more important historical figures ever to rule Russia.
It has been a somewhat improbable run for Putin, 65, who spent the bulk of his early career as a middle-level K.G.B. agent in East Germany. Calling the collapse of the Soviet Union one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century, he has built his formidable popularity on the idea that Russia should restore its natural destiny as a superpower, an equal to the United States in military might and global influence.
His crowning achievement in pursuit of this goal was the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which has kept his popularity ratings around 85 percent ever since. Election day was moved to March 18, the fourth anniversary of that annexation, as a pointed reminder to voters.
Putin made the long-anticipated announcement on the floor of a vehicle factory in the northern industrial city of Nizhny Novgorod. He delivered a brief statement in the seemingly spontaneous yet carefully choreographed manner he favors for major appearances broadcast live on state television. It began with a worker climbing onto the stage set up for the occasion at the Gorky Automobile Factory known by its Russian acronym as GAZ - to ask Putin if he would run, saying:
"Today in this hall everybody, without exception, supports you. Give us a gift, announce your decision!" Asked the same question on live television at national forum for volunteer youths just hours earlier, Putin had said he was still thinking about it. This time, with the hall erupting in cheers of "GAZ supports you!," Putin said he was running. "There is no better space and no better occasion to announce this," he said.
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