President Vladimir Putin kept Russians waiting as he dodged an opportunity to announce his long-awaited bid for another six-year term.
Whilst next year's election in March is devoid of real suspense about who will win, what follows is more unpredictable as attention will turn to what happens after Putin's final term - under the current constitution - ends.
Speaking at a meeting with volunteers Wednesday, Putin was asked if he would run and said that public trust would be a key factor in his decision.
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The appearance was shown live on state television.
Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000, longer than veteran Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and outstripped only by dictator Josef Stalin.
"The United Russia party that has been founded by President Putin will support his candidacy".
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The Kremlin has been anxious about growing voter apathy, and the uncertainty about Putin's plans seemed meant to encourage public interest in the race.
Russian Federation will move only forward and no one will stop its advance, Putin pointed out, adding: "Certainly, the foundation is always laid by people like you, the toilers in the broadest meaning of the word, comprising workers, scientists, engineers, designers, teachers and doctors", he emphasized adding such people "are not just the backbone of our country, but they are our country, they are Russian Federation". "I'm sure that together we will succeed". He said he would decide shortly if he would seek another six-year term. He's expected to make the move after the upper house of parliament formally launches the race later this month. To the host's visible surprise, Putin didn't take the bait. 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.
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