Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’ll seek re-election

Putin has been Russia’s president or prime minister for 17 years.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD/MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin confirmed Russia’s worst kept political secret on Wednesday, saying he would run for re-election in March 2018 – a contest he seems sure to win comfortably and extend his grip on power into a third decade.

Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000, longer than veteran Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and outstripped only by dictator Josef Stalin.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is unlikely to be allowed to run against Putin due to what he says is a trumped up criminal conviction, said Putin was overstaying his welcome.

In a move critics suspect is a Kremlin ploy to split the liberal opposition vote while injecting a patina of interest, TV celebrity Ksenia Sobchak, the daughter of Putin’s political mentor, is standing against him, offering voters unhappy with his rule someone to back. Sobchak said on Wednesday that Putin would probably win “As always,” but that she still planned to run to represent people who wanted change.

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