Medvedev drops hint on Kremlin ambitions

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday he would soon reveal if he will run in presidential polls next year, in possibly the strongest sign yet of his ambition to stay in the Kremlin.

"I do not rule out that I will run for a new term, the post of the president. The decision will be taken, and rather soon at that," he said in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) in comments released on Tuesday.

Russia is heading for presidential elections in 2012 and both the 45-year-old Medvedev and his 58-year-old mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, did not rule out standing.

Medvedev took over the Kremlin in 2008 after Putin served two four-year terms as president, with Putin immediately becoming a powerful prime minister. They have repeatedly said they would agree who would run to avoid competing with each other but neither has so far confirmed his plans.

The stakes are high -- the next leader can stay in power for a 6-year term under a constitutional change.

"No-one can know the future but I can tell you that as the current head of state, as the president, I of course think about it, I simply must do so," said Medvedev.

Analysts in the past weeks have urged the ruling duo to announce their plans as soon as possible so as not to keep the Russian political and economic elite in limbo amid fears the two men would delay the decision until after the parliamentary elections in December.

Medvedev, who spoke ahead of his upcoming visit to China this week, said his decision on whether to run would depend on a number of factors including the current social situation, the elite's political preferences and people's support.

"I expect that such an understanding will be formed in the rather near future, I will speak about it," Medvedev said in the interview.

Several recent studies have said the ruling tandem is increasingly mistrusted and there is a growing desire for an alternative to Putin or Medvedev.

But the opposition is fragmented and is unlikely to field a candidate who could challenge the status quo. Opinion polls show that Putin remains the most popular politician despite falling approval ratings.

Kremlin advisor Gleb Pavlovsky said both the president and prime minister want to run but only Medvedev has a political programme.

"Putin does not have an alternative programme. What he has are objections," he told AFP.

Last month, Medvedev launched a campaign to oust Putin's allies from company boards in what many called a bid to shore up his positions ahead of the polls.

That attack came on the heels of Medvedev's very public clash with his mentor when he rebuked Putin for comparing the West's military action in Libya to a medieval crusade, prompting analysts to speak of a rift between the partners.

Medvedev's interview is interspersed with statements more fit for a pre-election programme.

"My course is the modernisation of an economy and the modernisation of the political life," he said.

"It's time for changes. Whoever does not change is left in the past....What was good 10 years ago is not good today," he said.

He also defended his latest decision to remove government officials from company boards as he seeks to dismantle his predecessor's carefully built system of state control.

"We are not going to build state capitalism, this is not our choice," Medvedev said.

On Monday, Igor Sechin, Putin's influential deputy in charge of energy, resigned from his post as the board chairman of the state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.

Andrei Ryabov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, praised the president's intention to bring the much-needed clarity, adding it would also give the opposition more room for manoeuvre.

Ryabov added that the Kremlin chief's careful choice of words suggested however that he might still be testing the waters and he looked up to Putin for his final blessing.

© 2011 AFP

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