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MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday that he would run for re-election in 2024, allowing the Kremlin leader to extend his decades-long grip on power into the 2030s.

The 71-year-old has led Russia since the turn of the century, winning four presidential ballots and briefly serving as prime minister in a system where opposition has become virtually non-existent.

The announcement came at a set-piece Kremlin event for army personnel, including those who have fought in the military offensive in Ukraine that Putin ordered in February last year.

“I won’t hide it: I’ve had different thoughts at different times. But this is a time when a decision has to be made,” Putin said at the ceremony.

“I will run for the office of president of the Russian Federation.”

He was speaking to Lieutenant Colonel Artyom Zhoga, a Russian military officer, who had moments before urged him to run.

“Thanks to your actions, your decisions, we have gained freedom,” Zhoga said, adding: “We need you. Russia needs you.”

Putin’s seemingly off-the-cuff announcement at a ceremony for veterans was unusual but laden with symbolism, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said.

“The (military) heroes — ‘fathers of the Donbas’ — want to see Putin as president again,” she said.

Putin will not face any major challengers in his bid for a fifth term and is likely to seek as large a mandate as possible in order to conceal domestic discord over the Ukraine conflict, analysts say.

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