Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a forum in Moscow that he plans to make a final decision on participating in the presidential election in the nearest future. His press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said an announcement could be made “at any moment.”
“This is always a very responsible decision, for any person, because the motive behind it can be only the desire to make people’s lives in our country better and make the country itself more powerful and protected, aimed into the future,” Putin said at the “Russian Volunteer 2017” award ceremony in Moscow on Wednesday, according to RIA Novosti.
“And one can achieve these goals under one single condition – the trust and support of the people,” he added. Putin then asked the audience if they would support his decision to run and the answer was seemingly a unanimous “Yes.”
“I understand that the decision must be made in the nearest future. And it will be made in the nearest future. And when I make it, I will certainly keep in mind our conversation today and your reaction,” he said.
Earlier this week, some Russian journalists predicted that Putin would announce his intention to run at Wednesday’s award ceremony. However, when they asked presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov about these reports, he denied knowledge of any particular date for the president’s announcement.
“The president can do it any time and this is why one needs to be ready every day,” Peskov said. When reporters insisted that they needed to know the exact date, Peskov replied: “I don’t know this and such rumors appear about it every day.”
Putin has repeatedly refused to reveal his plans concerning the 2018 presidential race. On one occasion, he explained his reticence by suggesting that, once he makes an unambiguous statement on the subject, “everyone in the country would stop working.”
However, in late November, the head of the parliamentary majority party United Russia, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, said that he and all members of the party would “unconditionally” support Vladimir Putin if he decides to run. Medvedev also told reporters that he “did not see himself as a presidential candidate,” at least in the current political landscape.
The next Russian presidential election is scheduled to take place on March 18 – the anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The law requires that the official start of the election campaign is announced between December 7 and 17. Within 20 days of the announcement, all potential candidates must officially declare their intention and receive a set of documents that would allow them to start collecting supporters’ signatures that are required for registration (an exception is made for those who run on the ticket of a parliamentary party).
People who have already announced their intention to run include the founder of the liberal Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky; head of the Russian Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov; longtime leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky; head of the Grand Freemason Lodge of Russia Andrey Bogdanov; business ombudsman Boris Titov; journalist and former ‘it girl’ Kseniya Sobchak; and a number of others.