Putin set for six more years at top

The Dominion Post - - World -

RUS­SIA: Vladimir Putin has an­nounced he will run for re­elec­tion as pres­i­dent of Rus­sia next March.

Af­ter months of pub­lic spec­u­la­tion, he made the an­nounce­ment while speak­ing to work­ers at the 85th an­niver­sary of the Gorky au­to­mo­bile plant (GAZ) in Nizhny Nov­gorod, a Soviet-era pow­er­house that has been re­vived through or­ders from West­ern carmakers in re­cent years.

He is al­most certain to win an­other six-year term. By the end of it, he will have been in power for more than 24 years, in­clud­ing a stint as prime min­is­ter that al­lowed him to skirt the limit of two con­sec­u­tive terms.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, a par­tic­i­pant at a vol­un­teer con­fer­ence ap­peared to dis­rupt the care­ful stage man­age­ment that has sur­rounded Putin’s an­nounce­ment by ask­ing him in front of an au­di­ence whether he would run. The pres­i­dent would only re­ply that the ‘‘de­ci­sion should be made very soon’’.

‘‘To­day at the vol­un­teer fo­rum, you were asked whether you would put your can­di­dacy for­ward, and you said you would if the peo­ple sup­port you. All of us in this hall sup­port you with­out ex­cep­tion,’’ a GAZ em­ployee told Putin to the ap­plause of his co­work­ers.

‘‘Vladimir Vladimirovich, give us a present, an­nounce your de­ci­sion. Be­cause GAZ is for you! GAZ is for you!’’

‘‘There is prob­a­bly no bet­ter place and rea­son for this,’’ Putin said.

‘‘Thank you for your sup­port, I will put my can­di­dacy for­ward for the pres­i­dency of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion.’’

Amid ap­plause and up­lift­ing mu­sic pumped over the speak­ers, he praised the fac­tory and its long his­tory.

‘‘Thank you for your work, thank you for your relationship with your en­ter­prise, your city and your coun­try,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m con­fi­dent that ev­ery­thing will work out for us.’’

State tele­vi­sion im­me­di­ately be­gan de­vot­ing its evening news pro­grammes to the an­nounce­ment, which it dubbed a ‘‘his­toric event’’. The rul­ing United Rus­sia party within min­utes an­nounced it

"Vladimir Vladimirovich, give us a present, an­nounce your de­ci­sion."

Putin sup­porter and GAZ au­toworker

would back Putin.

Dur­ing his ap­pear­ance, the pres­i­dent also said Rus­sia ‘‘won’t an­nounce any block­ade’’ of the 2018 Win­ter Olympics af­ter it was banned on Wed­nes­day over its dop­ing pro­gramme. Rus­sian ath­letes can still par­tic­i­pate un­der a neu­tral flag.

Putin has long been ex­pected to run and is al­most certain to win given his ap­proval rat­ings, which have re­mained above 80 per cent since the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014.

But he and the Krem­lin have been cagey about when the an­nounce­ment would be made. At 65, Putin has al­ready reached the Rus­sian re­tire­ment age, and he has run the coun­try for 18 years, sur­passed only by Joseph Stalin.

He has some­times ap­peared bored with do­mes­tic is­sues at pub­lic ap­pear­ances, al­though by all ac­counts he re­mains highly in­volved in for­eign policy.

The age­ing lead­ers of two Krem­lin-loyal par­ties, who avoided crit­i­cis­ing Putin dur­ing pre­vi­ous elec­tions, have also an­nounced their can­di­da­cies, as has Kse­nia Sobchak, the con­tro­ver­sial so­cialite nick­named the ‘‘Rus­sian Paris Hil­ton’’.

– Tele­graph Group

Vladimir Putin

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