Putin inches toward declaring his re-election bid

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at the annual Volunteer of Russia 2017 award ceremony at the Megasport Sport Palace in Moscow,

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at the annual Volunteer of Russia 2017 award ceremony at the Megasport Sport Palace in Moscow,

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has inched closer to declaring his intention to seek re-election in next March's vote, saying he will weigh the decision based on public support.

Speaking at a meeting with volunteers Wednesday, Putin was asked if he would run and said that public trust would be a key factor in his decision.

He said he would decide "shortly" if he will run in the March 18 vote, adding — to massive applause — that he would take the audience's support into account.

Putin, whose approval ratings top 80 percent, is set to easily win the vote, but he has dragged his feet on announcing his bid. He's expected to make the move after the upper house of parliament formally launches the race later this month.