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Russia’s upper house of parliament voted on Thursday to set the date for Russia’s presidential election for March 17, 2024.

According to international media reports, the decision was passed unanimously by 162 votes in the Federation Council.

“With this decision, we are effectively launching the start of the election campaign,” Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council, said.

She added that for the first time, residents of the parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions of Ukraine annexed by Russia would participate in the vote.

“By choosing a head of state together, we fully share the common responsibility and common destiny of our fatherland,” Matviyenko said.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, 71, hasn’t yet announced his intention to run again but is widely expected to do so in the coming days now that the date has been set. Under constitutional reforms, he is eligible to seek two more six-year terms after his current one expires next year, potentially allowing him to remain in power until 2036. Having established tight control over Russia’s political system, Putin’s victory in the March election is all but assured.

Prominent critics who could challenge him on the ballot are either in jail or living abroad. Neither the costly, drawn-out war in Ukraine nor a failed rebellion last summer by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have affected his high approval ratings reported by independent pollsters. Who would challenge him on the ballot remains unclear.

Two people have announced plans to run: former lawmaker Boris Nadezhdin, who holds a seat on a municipal council in the Moscow region, and Yekaterina Duntsova, a journalist and lawyer from the Tver region north of Moscow, who once was a member of a local legislature.

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