MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin says he will decide later this year whether to run for re-election, a familiar course for the reticent Russian leader who prefers to enter the race at the last moment.
Putin, whose approval ratings top 80 percent despite economic woes, said Wednesday he hasn't made up his mind yet on whether he will seek another six-year term in March.
If Putin enters the race as expected, he stands to easily defeat the usual pack of luckless veterans of past elections like Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal Grigory Yavlinsky.
Alexei Navalny, arguably Russia's most popular opposition politician, has declared his intention to run and inspired a grassroots campaign to support his nomination. A criminal conviction that he calls politically motivated bars him from running, however.