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The seven men and women trying to oust Vladimir Putin

While another victory for Vladimir Putin in next month’s Russian presidential election seems as inevitable as Manchester City lifting the Premier League trophy in May, there are seven other candidates vying for votes to prevent the 65-year-old from becoming the country’s longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin.

Mr Putin enjoys an approval rating of 80% and is expected to secure a fourth term with ease, having served two four-year terms between 2000 and 2008 and then reclaiming the top job in 2012 after a stint as prime minister – and he only took that role due to legal limits over consecutive presidential terms.

So who would be brave enough to go up against him in the race to the Kremlin? Who could believe they stand a chance of a shock victory on 18 March? Sky News takes a look at the contenders who think they have what it takes.

:: There’s more at stake in Russia’s election than Putin’s pride

Moscow
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Does anyone stand a chance against Putin in the race to the Kremlin?

Sergei Baburin

The 2018 presidential election marks a return to politics for Mr Baburin, 59, who took a break from public life after failing to make it into parliament in 2007.

His return comes almost three decades after he last played a prominent role in Russian politics – he opposed the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and led a parliamentary rebellion against then-president Boris Yeltsin in 1993.

After that the legal expert spent several stints in parliament before he left in 2007, after which he went on to become the head of a university in Moscow.

He was nominated for the 2018 race by fringe nationalist party the Russian All-People’s Union.

Sergei Baburin has returned to politics after a lengthy absence. Pic: Vitebsk Popular News
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Sergei Baburin has returned to politics after a lengthy absence. Pic: Vitebsk Popular News

Maxim Suraikin

Trained engineer Mr Suraikin has been nominated by the Communists of Russia party, which casts itself as a viable alternative to the main Communist Party.

Mr Suraikin does not have much political experience, having endured an unsuccessful campaign to become governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region in 2014. He received just 2% of the vote.

The 39-year-old has had some luck running a small computer business, though.

Maxim Suraikin - billed as an alternative to the main Communist Party
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Maxim Suraikin – billed as an alternative to the main Communist Party

Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Mr Zhirinovsky, nominated by the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, is running against Mr Putin despite steadfastly supporting him and his party in parliament over the years.

He is a controversial figure thanks to a series of xenophobic statements, allegations that he incites political violence, and apparent animal cruelty.

During the 2012 presidential election, in which he won 6% of the vote, the 71-year-old released a short video online in which he rode a sleigh harnessed by a donkey, which he whipped aggressively to have it pull him through the snow.

“This little wretched donkey is the symbol of Russia,” he said in the clip, which angered animal rights group PETA.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the oldest candidate in the race
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Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the oldest candidate in the race

Boris Titov

This election marks the first time 57-year-old Mr Titov has run for president, having been nominated by the pro-business conservative Party of Growth.

He is a strong advocate for businesses, having enjoyed a successful career dealing in chemicals and fertilisers, and he has campaigned on creating a more favourable environment for firms across the country.

It has been predicted that he will only garner around 1.5% of the vote.

Boris Titov is a successful businessman
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Boris Titov is a successful businessman

Ksenia Sobchak

Ms Sobchak is the only woman running in the presidential election and is well known in Russia as a celebrated TV host.

The 36-year-old – named as the 10th highest paid celebrity in Russia by Forbes in 2017 – says she has grown tired of Mr Putin and his familiar challengers and is keen to see liberal changes in Russian politics.

She announced her candidacy as an independent in a YouTube video in October, but she was later named as the nomination for the People’s Freedom Party.

Ms Sobchak has been tipped to do relatively well with voters and increase turnout, but analysts have predicted that she will likely help split the liberal vote and inadvertently make Mr Putin’s victory look all the more comprehensive.

Ksenia Sobchak - hat chance could a TV personality have in a presidential election?
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Ksenia Sobchak wants to see liberal changes. But what chance could a TV personality have in a presidential election…?

Pavel Grudinin

Mr Grudinin is the candidate of the Communist Party, despite being a wealthy business owner who is openly proud of his riches.

The 57-year-old is a millionaire, having amassed his wealth by serving as the director of a successful strawberry farm, and until 2010 was a member of United Russia – the main Kremlin party.

But he has been openly critical of Russia’s current political and economic system, although he has avoided publicly criticising Mr Putin.

His surprise nomination has been seen as an attempt by the Communist Party to broaden its appeal beyond old voters harbouring nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

Wealthy business owner Pavel Grudinin is running for the Communist Party...
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Wealthy business owner Pavel Grudinin is running for the Communist Party

Grigory Yavlinsky

Mr Yavlinsky has run against Mr Putin before, back in 2000, when he garnered around 6% of the vote.

Since then he has denounced the Kremlin’s policies and regularly criticised the president, calling for more political freedoms for the country’s people and a more liberal economy.

He considers himself an economic expert and is popular among middle-aged and elderly liberal voters in big Russian cities, but overall his support base is small.

In 2012, his application to run for president was rejected because he did not garner enough signatures. He is running for the party he founded, Yabloko.

Grigory Yavlinsky has run against Mr Putin before
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Grigory Yavlinsky has run against Mr Putin before

Wait… where’s Alexei Navalny?

He may be the most renowned and vocal critic of Mr Putin, but Mr Navalny is not going up against him in the election because he has been barred from running.

Russia’s central election commission said he could not run because of a suspended prison sentence for fraud, but thousands still turned out to endorse him for the presidency during demonstrations across the country in December.

Thousands of the 41-year-old’s supporters gathered in Moscow to rally against Mr Putin’s regime in January, calling on voters to boycott what they believe will be a rigged presidential election.

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