Vladimir Putin has given his strongest hint yet that he is considering a return to the Kremlin, a move that could allow the combative Russian leader to stay in power until 2024.
Speaking at the Novo-Ogaryovo official residence outside Moscow, Putin insisted that swapping places with Dimitri Medvedev, the President, was no more sinister than the Labor leadership agreement in which Gordon Brown took Tony Blair’s job.
Putin, who turns 57 next month, expounded on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues that left few in doubt that he remains Russia’s paramount leader, even though he officially occupies the number two position as Prime Minister.
Asked whether he would run again for the presidency, Putin said that he would come to an accommodation with Mr Medvedev, just as the two men had done when Putin stepped down in 2008.
"We will come to an agreement because we are people of the same blood and of the same political views,” he told foreign journalists and academics at the annual Valdai Discussion Club.
“According to the reality of the moment, we will make an analysis and take a decision. Did we compete in 2008? No. So we will not compete in 2012,” Putin said.