President Vladimir Putin on Saturday promised “victories” for Russia at a star-studded rally attended by tens of thousands of supporters ahead of a March 18 election he is all but certain to win.

Olympic athletes, celebrities and cosmonauts earlier took to the stage to voice their support for Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades and is seeking to extend his Kremlin term to 2024.

“We want our country to be bright and looking to the future, for our children and grandchildren … we will do everything we can for them to be happy,” he told the cheering crowd at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.

“Nobody else will do this for us. And if we do this, the coming decade and the whole 21st century will be marked by our bright victories,” he said.

Organizers said around 100,000 people were expected to attend the event. An AFP journalist estimated around 80,000 people were in the stadium before the rally began.

Putin on Thursday set the course for a new arms race with Washington, as he boasted of a new generation of “invincible” Russian weapons developed in response to recent actions by the United States.

Boosted by a slavish media and foreign military adventures like the annexation of Crimea in 2014, his approval rating remains sky-high and official polls suggest he will take almost 70 percent of the vote this month.


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