Vladimir Putin will run as an independent for fourth term as Russia’s president

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he will run for re-election as Russia’s leader, but will as an independent rather than as a nominee of the United Russia party.

Putin made the announcement in a wide-ranging press conference that lasted several hours.

Putin’s approval rating is above 80 percent, according to the Associated Press. His decision to run on his own could be an attempt to separate himself from the more unpopular United Russia party.

The party has an approval rating of just 42 percent, according to CNBC.

“I will run on my own behalf,” Putin said. “Definitely, I hope that I will be supported by some popular movements, parties or any other groups that share my views and that endorse my views so I really rely on broad support from our people.”

Russians are set to vote on March 18, and Putin said he expects Russia’s economy to grow by 1.6 percent in 2018.

Putin had some words for the U.S. as well, and said he believes accusations that President Trump colluded with Russia to win his election is damaging the U.S. political system. He also said it shows a “lack of respect” for Trump’s voters.

Putin also said he thinks the Olympic ban on Russian athletes was meant to damage his prospects for re-election.

This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner

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