Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term in office - which would keep him in the Kremlin through 2024, if he wins another six-year term as expected.
He made the announcement in a speech to workers at a auto factory in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod. He held the office of president for two terms from 2000 to 2008, and served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012.
Russia's president reiterated the importance of a working group created by the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. "I'm sure that together we will succeed".
The plant is one of the country's most emblematic industrial giants. Some thought Putin would step down and name a preferred successor. Putin asked the audience, which prompted a resounding chorus of "Yes!"
A stream of fawning comments from officials and lawmakers quickly followed his announcement.
The upper house is expected to give the formal start to the election campaign later this month.
In the 1990s, after serving as a KGB spy, Putin became an aide to St Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak. 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. Navalny himself spent 20 days in jail in October for organizing another rally.
"According to a recent poll by the independent Levada Center, 53 percent of Russians would vote for Putin, with his closest rival, nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, getting 4 percent", NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow.