Russia's presidential election will take place on March 18 following a vote in the upper chamber of the country's parliament.

Though the vote Friday from the Federation Council is largely a formality, it formally kick-starts the campaign.

President Vladimir Putin last week ended weeks of speculation, saying he will run for the fourth term. Putin's 80 percent approval ratings make his victory all but certain.

His most visible adversary, anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, has declared his intention to run but a criminal conviction bars his from running for president.

Navalny has been convicted on two separate sets of charges largely viewed as politically motivated. Despite the implicit ban he has mounted a grassroots campaign which reached the most remote corners of Russia.