Putin set to return as Russian president
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday stunningly announced that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should return to the Kremlin in 2012 elections for a new six-year mandate.
Medvedev told the annual congress of ruling party United Russia that he was prepared to take on "practical work" in the government after the March presidential polls, a hint that he could be prime minister in a new Putin presidency.
"I think it would be correct for the congress to support the candidacy of the party chairman, Vladimir Putin, to the post of president of the country," Medvedev told the annual congress of United Russia to cheers from delegates.
The Russian president, who had spearheaded a drive to modernise Russia since taking over from Putin in 2008, spoke of his "readiness to assume practical work in the government" in the future.
"If the party wins the elections, and I am almost certain of it -- if we continue working just as well -- then I am ready to continue doing real work to modernise the country."
The presidential elections are scheduled in March and due to the emasculated state of the Russian opposition, the candidate of United Russia, which dominates the country's politics, is almost certain to win control of the Kremlin.
Under constitutional changes pushed forward by Medvedev and which many long suspected were aimed at further strengthening Putin, the new president will have a six-year mandate rather than four years as before.
Putin said he and Medvedev had "long ago" agreed on their future roles in Russia, despite months of suspense over who would stand in the presidential elections.
"I would like to say directly that the agreement about what should be done, what we should be doing -- that we reached a long time ago, several years ago," Putin said to a round of applause.
Seeking to give Medvedev a big future role despite his abdication of the Kremlin, Putin unexpectedly announced that Medvedev would head the list of ruling party United Russia in December parliamentary elections.
"I propose that the list of United Russia for the State Duma elections on December 4 be headed by the head of state, Dmitry Medvedev," Putin said.
Defending the establishment against criticism that the scenario had been stitched-up behind the scenes, Medvedev said: "What we are offering the convention is a well thought out decision. I want to stress one thing: we've always said the truth."
"Our beloved country, our Russia should belong to free, decent and responsible people. And I am certain -- it will be this way."
Putin left the Kremlin in 2008 after serving a maximum two consecutive terms but carried on as Russia's de-facto number one as prime minister while his hand-picked successor Medvedev served as a sometimes overshadowed president.
While the first day of the United Russia congress took place in a conference centre close to the Kremlin, Medvedev and Putin spoke at the gigantic Luzhniki sports complex in a glitzy spectacle attended by thousands.
© 2011 AFP