Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Gorky Automobile Plant in Nizhny Novgorod on Wednesday, where he officially announced he would seek re-election in March. Photo by Michael Klimentyev/Kremlin pool/Sputnik/EPA
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday he will seek a fourth term in the spring -- which will be his first campaign in six years.
Putin, who's led the Kremlin as president or prime minister since 2000, made the announcement at a vehicle factory Wednesday in the northern industrial city of Nizhny Novgorod. The event marked the 85th anniversary of the Gorky Automobile Plant.
At the plant, a factory worker climbed onto a stage and told Putin: "Today in this hall everybody, without exception, supports you. Give us a gift, announce your decision!"
"There is no better space and no better occasion to announce this," Putin answered. "I will run for the presidency of the Russian Federation."
Putin, 65, maintains a high approval rating in Russia -- more than 82 percent, according to a September poll from state-run VTSIOM.
"Our country is its people, people like you," Putin added. "It's workers, scientists, engineers, designers, teachers and doctors."
He also said with Russians' "active involvement," the country "can deal with any, even the most complex challenges it faces."
Earlier at the Russian Volunteer 2017 award ceremony in Moscow, Putin asked the audience whether they would support him again in the election. The answer was a resounding "Yes."
His main rival, Aleksei Navalny, has been barred from running because of a series of criminal cases. Navalny, who's said the cases are politically motivated, opened more than 80 campaign offices in an effort to force the government to let him register.
Independent candidates must collect hundreds of thousands of signatures from members of the public to run.
Other candidates for the March election include Liberal-Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Communist Party's Gennady Zyuganov, the liberal Yabloko party's Grigory Yavlinsky, journalist and singer-songwriter Ekaterina Gordon, journalist and reality show host Ksenia Sobchak and business ombudsman Boris Titov.
Putin rose to power in 2000 as President Boris Yeltsin's replacement. Due to term limits, he became prime minister in 2008 and returned as president in 2012.