Russian soldiers rehearse for a forthcoming parade on Red Square in Moscow on November 5, 2017. (AFP PHOTO)
MOSCOW, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Russian Federation Council, or the upper house of parliament, on Friday officially set the country's presidential election date for March 18, 2018.
The resolution setting the date to be published on Monday will effectively give a start to the election campaign, chairman of the Federation Council's Constitutional Legislation Committee Andrei Klishas said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has declared his intention to participate in the race as an independent candidate, is widely expected to win his fourth term.
The latest public opinion poll by government-owned research center VTSIOM showed that Putin's approval rating stood at 53.5 percent as of Dec. 10, up from 53.0 percent a week earlier, leaving all possible rivals far behind.
To be registered as an independent presidential candidate, a candidate has to collect at least 300,000 voters' signatures on his or her behalf by Feb. 1.
If a candidate wishes to run within the framework of a political party, this party will have to collect no less than 100,000 signatures on the candidate's behalf.
The election was previously planned to be held on March 11, but later it was postponed to March 18, when the country will celebrate the Day of Incorporation of Crimea.
The peninsula joined Russia in 2014 following a local referendum, which Western countries did not recognize as legitimate.
The law declaring March 18 a national holiday was adopted in 2015.