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Putin Makes First Appearance After Announcing His New Six-year Term in March 2018 Elections.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold an annual press conference Thursday in his first major public appearance since announcing he would seek a new six-year term in March 2018 elections.

A recent independent poll suggests 75 percent of voters would be prepared to cast ballots for Putin

The marathon event has in the past lasted up to almost five hours and this year will be attended by more than 1,600 journalists.

The president typically answers questions on a broad range of topics — from foreign policy to the state of provincial roads to his private life — and receives televised requests from the far corners of Russia.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin planned to spend all of the previous day preparing for what would be his 13th such press conference, due to start at 0900 GMT.

Analysts said the event would give a clearer idea of what to expect from Putin ahead of an election in which he is widely expected to extend his rule to 2024, making him the country’s longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin.

“It will be the start of the election campaign: he will have to demonstrate the result of his work and make election promises,” Russian political analyst Konstantin Kalachev told AFP.

According to a survey published by independent pollster Levada on Wednesday, 75 percent of Russians would be prepared to vote for Putin in March, despite having yet to hear any campaign pledges since he announced his candidacy last week.

Putin, who has ruled Russia since 1999, will face a handful of token opponents at the ballot box.

Some suspect former reality show host and socialite Ksenia Sobchak’s entry into the race is designed to split the opposition and boost interest in the election

One of these is Ksenia Sobchak, a former socialite turned liberal TV presenter who many suspect is running as Kremlin “spoiler” candidate to split the opposition and boost interest in the polls.

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Sobchak, whose father was Putin’s political mentor and who is rumoured to be the president’s goddaughter, will be at Thursday’s event as a journalist for opposition channel Dozhd and is expected to be allowed to ask a question.

Putin’s main challenge will be to convince Russians to vote at all in an election in which he is widely expected to win. According to Levada, only 28 percent of Russians said they were certain to vote in March..

“Russians are generally against war and Putin will try to show that the situation is normalising, that the army is strong and that he is once again a winner,” said Kalachev.

Independent analyst Evgeny Minchenko agreed, saying Syria was a “good pillar for Putin’s image” — especially compared to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which had disastrous effects for Moscow.

“Comparatively, there was little blood spilled among Russian servicemen (in Syria). The army demonstrated a high level of readiness, more than the Americans did,” said Minchenko.

Analysts see Putin's ability to get Russia out of Syria with little loss of Russian life will boost his image at a time when the economy is also returning to growthAnalysts see Putin’s ability to get Russia out of Syria with little loss of Russian life will boost his image at a time when the economy is also returning to growth

Focusing on the end of the Syria campaign would allow Putin to downplay the country’s international isolation following Western sanctions imposed on Moscow since 2014 for its role in the Ukraine conflict, said Russia expert Alexander Golts.

Putin is also expected to reassure Russians on domestic issues, particularly on the economy which is returning to growth after a financial crisis following a crash in oil prices and Western sanctions.

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Written by How Africa

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