Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he would run for re-election in March, seeking a fifth term that would extend his rule to 2030 and, if served to completion, make him Russia’s longest-serving leader since Catherine the Great in the late 18th century.

In the absence of genuine political opposition, Putin is all but assured of winning another six-year term that will prolong his authoritarian grip. There had been next to no doubt that he would run: Perhaps in an acknowledgment of his expected candidacy, Putin declared his intentions not at a podium, but in a conversation with soldiers that was recorded on camera.

Still, the exchange was laden with symbolism, coming after a military awards ceremony at the Kremlin that underscored his standing as a wartime president overseeing a brutal invasion of Ukraine.