“I can’t think of a better time or place to announce it — thank you for your support — I will run for the post of president of the Russian Federation,’’ Putin told an event at the GAZ auto factory in Nizhny Novgorod. In comments carried live on national television, he was responding to a worker who asked him to “do us a favor” and confirm his intentions, triggering chants of “GAZ is behind you!”

At the peak of his power at home and abroad, Putin is expected to win a landslide in the contest, expected on March 18, with a recent poll showing he’d get 67 percent of the vote. Though popular domestically, his aggressive rebuilding of Russia’s global influence has brought a surge in tension with the West. Relations with the U.S. are at the lowest since the Cold War, with Russia facing more sanctions over allegations of Kremlin meddling in last year’s American presidential election.