Vladimir Putin has declared his intention to run for a fourth term as president of Russian Federation.
"I will put forward my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian Federation", he told an audience of workers at a vehicle factory in the city of Nizhny Novgorod.
Putin, who first became president after Boris Yeltsin sensationally resigned on New Year's Eve 1999, handed power to his ally Medvedev in 2008 at the end of his second term. His critics accuse him of overseeing a corrupt authoritarian system and of illegally annexing Ukraine's Crimea, a move that has isolated Russian Federation.
With his approval ratings topping 80 percent, Putin is certain to win a quick victory in the March 18 vote.
Mr Medvedev had the presidential term extended to six years and then stepped down to let Mr Putin reclaim the presidency in 2012.
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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.
Analysts note that Mr Putin's biggest challenge in the election will not be fending off his opponents - no one appears capable of beating him - but rather mobilising voters to turn out amid signs apathy is seeping in. He has organized a grassroots campaign and staged rallies across Russian Federation to raise pressure on the Kremlin to let him register for the race.
"The decision will be taken and announced in the near future", said Putin, without making it clear just how soon. That decision will trigger a round of intrigue over the succession, as whoever holds the prime minister's post is often viewed as the president's heir apparent. Sobchak said on Wednesday that Putin would probably win "as always", but that she still planned to run to represent people who wanted change. "I will run for president".
The veterans of past campaigns - Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky - have all declared their intention to run.
The appearance was shown live on state television.