Russia is preparing to move the date of the 2018 election that is expected to hand President Vladimir Putin a new term from March 11 to March 18 -- the day Russia celebrates its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
The State Duma approved a bill on the date change on April 12 in the first of three votes on the issue in the lower house of parliament. It is certain to pass.
Russian law says that presidential elections are held on the second Sunday in March unless that is a working day, in which case the voting must be held a week earlier.
The authors of the bill said that March 11 was likely to be a working day after the March 8 International Women's Day holiday. But instead of holding the election a week earlier, they proposed March 18.
Observers suspect the Kremlin hopes holding the vote on March 18 will boost turnout and attract more votes for Putin because that was the date, in 2014, on which he signed a treaty that Moscow claims made the Crimean Peninsula part of Russia.
Kyiv, the United States, and most other countries reject that assertion. They consider Crimea, which Russia seized after sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by 100 states, to be part of Ukraine.
Putin, in power as president or prime minister since 1999, has not announced plans to run for a new six-year term but is widely expected to do so.
With reporting by RIA Novosti, Interfax, and TASS