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Russia to Hold Presidential Elections on March 18

Russia to Hold Presidential Elections on March 18

Friday, 15 December, 2017 - 09:30
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP)

Russia will hold presidential elections on March 18, announced speaker Valentina Matvienko on Friday.

The decision was made after a unanimous vote by senators at the upper house of parliament

Though the vote Friday from the Federation Council is largely a formality, it formally kick-starts the campaign.

Putin, who announced his bid for re-election last week, said on Thursday he would run as a self-nominated candidate, keeping his distance from the main Kremlin party, United Russia, which has many members dogged by accusations of corruption.

A victory to another six-year term would put him on track to become the nation's longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Putin's 80 percent approval ratings make his victory all but certain.

His most visible adversary, anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, has declared his intention to run but a criminal conviction bars his from running for president.

Navalny has been convicted on two separate sets of charges largely viewed as politically motivated.

Putin said he does not fear competition, but emphasized that the government would thwart any attempts by radicals to destabilize Russia.

Sticking to his habit of not mentioning Navalny by name, Putin likened him to Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia who has turned into a Ukrainian opposition leader. Saakashvili has defied the Ukrainian government with a series of recent anti-corruption protests.

Putin said his government wouldn't let "people like Saakashvili" plunge Russia into the kind of instability that is now wracking Ukraine.

Navalny tweeted that Putin's statement "confirmed that not letting me run is a deliberate political move."

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