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Putin submits documents for 2018 Kremlin race

Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed in the required documents to run for re-election in Russia’s 2018 presidential vote.

Putin, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape as either president or prime minister over the last 17 years, paid a visit on Wednesday to the Central Election Commission (CEC) and personally registered his name.

He announced his intention to run during a meeting with employees of a car-making plant in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, on December 6.

As an independent candidate Putin is required to submit a statement of consent to running for president, confirmations of biographical data, as well as income and property ownership data.

He also needs to collect at least 300,000 signatures from his supporters no later than 45 days before the March 18 election. The number would have dropped to 100,000 had he chosen to run within the framework of a political party.

Meanwhile, candidates running on behalf of parties that are represented in the parliament, including the ruling United Russia, the Communist Party of Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Just Russia, are allowed to register without collecting the signatures.

The United Russia and Just Russia have already thrown their weight behind Putin, who is expected to wipe the floor with his rivals and win another six-year term.

Latest polls suggest Putin is enjoying an approval rating of around 80 percent. The 65-year-old former KGB officer’s expected victory will allow him to remain in power until 2024.

To win the Kremlin race, Putin needs to beat 57-year-old Pavel Grudinin with the Communist Party of Russia, who registered Saturday.

He also faces competition from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Zhirinovsky registered as the first candidate last week.

In a controversial move, the CEC denied the election bid of opposition leader Alexei Navalny over a criminal conviction he had in the past. Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote in response, raising the prospect of protests.

Navalny claims the conviction, a suspended five-year prison sentence over embezzlement charges, is fabricated.

The US also weighed in on Navalny’s candidacy ban, with the US Department of State saying in a statement that Putin’s government “has failed to protect space in Russia for the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Tuesday that Washington’s stance amounted to “direct interference” in Russia’s “electoral process and internal affairs.”

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