SOCHI, Russia Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave a strong hint on Monday that he would run for president in 2012, a step that would almost certainly give him a second spell as Kremlin chief.
Putin is the dominant partner in a ruling tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev, the younger man he tapped as his favored successor when a constitutional two-term limit kept the former KGB spy out of the 2008 presidential race.
When asked if running for president in the 2012 election would damage Russia's political system, Putin cited Franklin Roosevelt who led the United States from 1933 until his death in office in April 1945, before a two-term limit was imposed.
"U.S. President Roosevelt was voted in four times in a row because this did not contradict the American constitution," Putin told Russia experts from the Valdai discussion group at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The Russian constitution prevented Putin from running in 2008 after serving a second consecutive four-year term as president, but he will be free to run again in 2012. Medvedev changed the constitution in late 2008 to extend future presidential terms to six years.
"Neither I nor President Medvedev will do anything which contradicts current Russian legislation or the country's fundamental law -- the constitution," Putin said.
"How we will act in 2011 or at the start of 2012 we -- I and President Medvedev -- have said this repeatedly: we will act based on the real situation in the country, on what we have done, on the mood in society," Putin said.
"It is too early to speak about this, though," Putin said. "We must do our jobs. Each of us is doing our job and in my view we are doing it effectively."
"CHOSE TO SHARE POWER"
Both Putin, 57, and Medvedev, 44, have suggested that one of them will run for president in 2012, and that they will agree in advance which one it will be.
No other Russian politician commands the same authority or popular support as Putin, though some diplomats caution that Russia's political system would be far too dependent on the fate of one man if Putin did return to the Kremlin.
When pressed on the long-term dangers of concentrating power in one person's hands, Putin said he wanted to create a "balanced" political system.
"We need people to understand that there is nothing wrong with constitutional changes of power. But that will take time," Putin said. "I agree that it is wrong for just one person to hold all the power. That is why I chose to share with Medvedev."