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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference to Russian federal, regional, and foreign media at the WTC Congress Center in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 14, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference to Russian federal, regional, and foreign media at the WTC Congress Center in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 14, 2017

Russia's Putin says he will run for re-election as an independent candidate

The President of Russia on Thursday announced he would run for re-election as an independent candidate, banking on the support of numerous political parties…

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The President of Russia on Thursday announced he would run for re-election as an independent candidate, banking on the support of numerous political parties and the popular vote while casting doubt on the competence of his opposition.

Vladimir Putin was giving his annual press conference at the WTC congress center in Moscow _ his first address to Russian media since confirming his candidacy in the Mar. presidential elections last week _ when he was pressed for details as to who would form part of his electoral team.

"I'm going to be self-nominated, but of course I do hope for the support of the social forces, be that parties or social organizations that share my views on the development of the country and I do hope for the broad support of our citizens," Putin said. 

The strongman president has long been associated with the United Russia political party, whose big-tent nationalism lays claim to three-quarters of the seats in the State Duma.

At the helm of the Kremlin for the last 17 years, Putin acknowledged that there were problems to addressed in Russian society but began his media conference praising a list of government achievements, ranging from higher average life expectancies to strong armed forces and sweeping tax reductions. 

One of the proposals Putin presented was to forgive almost $1 billion in back taxes accumulated by 42 million citizens and three million self-employed workers. 

He said the debts linked to back taxes often had nothing to do with people but with problems within Russia's fiscal system.

However, the President said that fiscal policies would not be changed in 2018, though it was possible that taxes would be raised in 2019 in order to pay for infrastructure, health, education, technology and military reinforcement projects.

Putin also cast doubt on the credibility of his political opposition, dubbing them noisy politicians who talk about an anti-democratic regime in Russia while offering no concrete agenda that would better the country's fortunes. 

"I think the most important question for the opposition is how to come up not just with a noisy agenda but a realistic agenda, something to gain the trust of the people and I do hope we are going to see such an opposition emerge and the sooner the better," he told reporters. 

Russian lawyer and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny has emerged as one of Putin's most prominent challengers, although his ability to run in the presidential elections is uncertain due to criminal convictions that he maintains are purely political.

Putin was appointed acting Prime Minister of Russia on New Year's Eve in 1999 as Boris Yeltsin stood down. 

He later became president following elections in May 2000 and has since alternated between the roles until the current day.

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