A spokesperson for Putin said the Russian president hasn't decided if he will run again in 2024.
But Putin's feigned indecision is his standard schtick, a Russia expert told Insider.
Putin's spokesman said there are no candidates who would pose a real threat to Putin's power.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing coy ahead of 2024.
A spokesperson for Putin told Russian state media this week that the president has not decided whether he will run again in next year's election.
"The president has not yet announced that he will nominate his candidacy," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia's RBC news service, according to Reuters.
In reality, there's little question that Putin will run in — and win — his fifth presidential election since 2000 come spring.
"He definitely runs again," Simon Miles, an assistant professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and a historian of the Soviet Union and US-Soviet relations, told Insider.
"This is classic Putin — the 'will he, won't he' schtick — to talk around the fact that it's foreordained that he runs and that he wins," Miles added.
Putin has maintained a firm hold on Russia's presidency for more than two decades by silencing the country's independent press; making his opponents "disappear"; and almost certainly through election fraud.
He first assumed the presidency in 2000, stepping into the role upon Boris Yeltsin's resignation. Putin served two four-year terms before term limits forced him back into the role of Russian Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012 — though Russia watchers have long held that Putin maintained executive power during those years.
In 2012, Putin returned to the presidency, setting off protests that were quickly curtailed.
Then, in 2021, Putin once again "reset" his own presidential terms, signing a law that would allow him to run for president twice more in his life, ostensibly keeping him in power until 2036.
Peskov told Russian media this week that if Putin does decide to run next spring, no one will be able to meaningfully compete with him.
"If we assume that the president stands as a candidate, then it is obvious that there can be no real competition for the president at this current stage," Peskov said, according to Reuters.
Peskov's comments come just weeks after the Kremlin spokesman suggested Russia "theoretically" doesn't even need to hold elections next year because it's "obvious" that Putin will win more than 90% of the vote.
"The only question is who the 'loyal opposition' candidates he inevitably beats will be," Miles said, referencing the Kremlin's history of handpicking appropriate candidates who pose no threat to Putin's victory.
Russia experts have posited that Putin's hold on power may be slipping amid the war in Ukraine.
But even if it is, the majority of Putin's legitimate political opponents — namely opposition leader Alexei Navalny — are languishing in prison, serving long, retaliatory sentences, or, like Boris Nemtsov an opposition leader who was gunned down in 2015, and Yevgeny Prigozhin a friend turned Putin foe— who staged a failed rebellion in June — are dead after daring to defy the president.
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