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Putin Formally Registered As Presidential Candidate

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been formally registered as a candidate in Russia's March 18 presidential election.

The Central Election Commission registered Putin on February 6, exactly two months after he announced his intention to run for a fourth term.

With high approval ratings and control over the levers of power, Putin is widely expected to win the vote.

Analysts say Putin is eager to secure the strongest possible victory with a high turnout in order to strengthen his mandate in what could be his final term.

Russia's constitution bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.

Critics say Putin has rolled back democratic reforms and advances on human rights that were made after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Detractors also say accuse the former KGB officer of implementing Soviet-style methods to suppress dissent and say he has needlessly stoked confrontation with the West.

Government critics also charge that election campaigns and results are manipulated by Russian authorities.

Putin was first elected as president in March 2000 after President Boris Yeltsin stepped down on the last day of 1999 and put Putin in charge as acting president.

Putin is the third presidential candidate officially registered by the Central Election Commission. Others registered so far are the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Communist Party nominee Pavel Grudinin.

Others who have declared their intention to run are liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, business ombudsman Boris Titov, and the journalist and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak.

Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, a vocal critic of Putin, has been barred from running because of a criminal conviction that he contends was the result of fabricated evidence.

Kremlin critics say most of the other candidates are window-dressing in a vote Putin is certain to win in Russia's tightly controlled political environment.

With reporting by Kommersant and Interfax
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