Putin vows to modernise Russia, challengers prepare for race
President Vladimir Putin presented his vision for modernising Russia yesterday, while some of his challengers in next March's presidential vote were formally nominated for the race.
Putin is running as an independent candidate, keeping a distance from the top Kremlin party, United Russia, which consists mostly of officials and has been dogged by corruption allegations against some of its top members.
Despite that, Putin showed up yesterday at United Russia's congress to speak about his future goals. He pledged to offer broader incentives for business, fight corruption and pour extra resources into the under funded health care and education system.
PUTIN SET TO WIN AGAIN
With his approval ratings topping 80 per cent, the 65-year-old Putin is set to easily win another six-year term in the March 18 vote.
His most visible opponent, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, is barred from the race by an embezzlement conviction he calls politically motivated.
Nevertheless, the 41-year old anti-corruption crusader has run a yearlong grass-roots campaign and staged waves of rallies to push the Kremlin to let him run.
The involvement of Ksenia Sobchak, a sharp-tongued 36-year old star TV host, could raise public interest in the race. While Sobchak has denied colluding with the Kremlin, her participation could weaken Navalny and attract younger voters to the polls.
She has criticised the Kremlin's policies and called for democratic changes, but steered clear of any personal criticism of Putin, who in the 1990s served as a deputy to Sobchak's late father, who was the mayor of St Petersburg.