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Putin vows to modernize Russia, challengers prepare for…

MOSCOW (AP) – President Vladimir Putin has presented his vision for modernizing Russia, while some of his challengers in next March’s presidential vote have been formally nominated for the race.

Putin is running as an independent candidate, keeping a distance from the top Kremlin party, United Russia, which has been dogged by corruption allegations against some of its top members.

Despite that, Putin showed up Saturday at United Russia’s congress, speaking about his future goals. He pledged to offer broader incentives for business, fight corruption and pour extra resources into the underfunded health care and education system.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground left, speaks to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, center, and acting Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Andrey Turchak , right, at the United Russia party congress in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. Putin will speak about his plans at a congress of the main Kremlin party, the United Russia, to spell out his program as he runs for re-election. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

With his approval ratings topping 80 percent, Putin is set to easily win the March 18 vote. Ksenia Sobchak, a star TV host, was formally nominated for the race Saturday following a few other contenders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, first row second left, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, center, United Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov, first row left, and acting Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Andrey Turchak , second right, stand as the national anthem is sang during a meeting of the United Russia party congress in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. Putin will speak about his plans at a congress of the main Kremlin party, the United Russia, to spell out his program as he runs for re-election. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, first row second left, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, center, United Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov, first row left, and acting Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Andrey Turchak , second right, stand as the national anthem is sang during a meeting of the United Russia party congress in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. Putin will speak about his plans at a congress of the main Kremlin party, the United Russia, to spell out his program as he runs for re-election. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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