Medvedev keeps suspense on presidential ambitions

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday refused to say if he intended to seek a new mandate in 2012 but said an announcement on the decision should be expected soon.

Amid speculation over whether Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin intend to stand in the polls there had been expectations the president would use the first large scale news conference of his presidency to offer a hint.

But speaking to over 800 journalists at the technology centre outside Moscow that is one of the centrepieces of his modernisation drive, Medvedev refused to offer any new indications of his ambitions.

"This kind of decision has to be made when all the conditions are right, when it has the final political effect," Medvedev said.

"That is exactly why I think that in order to make such a political decision, you have to select slightly different formats than a press conference," he added.

"This does not mean that this can last for ever... As I said in the interview to your Chinese colleagues, this decision will come fairly soon," he said, referring to a recent interview with Chinese television.

Some analysts have detected lately an increasing confidence in Medvedev, once dismissed as a mere puppet of the man who has dominated Russia for the last decade since the resignation of Boris Yeltsin.

He broke the pattern of the two men never disagreeing in public by bluntly contradicting Putin's statements on Libya and last week even expressing concern that the over-concentration of power was dangerous for the state.

Medvedev said it was wrong for rulers to stay in power for too long, although he made these comments in reference to Russia's powerful regional governors who he has reshuffled drastically in the last years.

"No-one stays in power for ever. And if anyone has that kind of illusion then they will end badly," said.

But Putin, who immediately became Russia's most powerful post-Soviet prime minister after leaving the Kremlin, has shown no sign of wishing to surrender the reins of power despite some sniping from pro-business lobbies.

Putin outlined a long-term plan for Russia's development in an address to parliament in April -- hardly the behaviour of a man on his way out -- and this month announced the creation of a popular front to unite his supporters.

Polls still show widespread support for the ruling United Russia party and Putin, which has little chance of cracking ahead of December legislative elections and the presidential polls.

© 2011 AFP

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