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Putin says thinking about 2012 election

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attend the state council in the presidential residence Gorki outside Moscow, May 24, 2010. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev are already considering their roles in the 2012 presidential election, Putin told French media Wednesday.

“Naturally, I am already thinking about this issue with President Medvedev but have decided not to make much fuss about it, not to let ourselves be distracted by this problem,” Putin said.

His comments to French media were reported by Russian news agencies.

Putin, president from 2000 to 2008, anointed Medvedev as his successor when his second consecutive term -- the maximum allowed under the constitution -- expired. But Putin, the country’s most popular politician, can run for president again in 2012 and stay in power until 2024 if he wins two more terms, extended under new rules to six years.

Since 2008 the duo have been running the country in a tandem, with Medvedev overseeing foreign policy and Putin concentrating on domestic issues and measures to overcome Russia’s deepest economic crisis in a decade.

“What we will do in 2012 will depend on the results (of our work),” Putin said in an interview ahead of his visit to France, which starts Thursday. He said there was “no need to interfere in each other’s area of competence.”

Both leaders have strived to demonstrate that the tandem has been running smoothly but some of Putin’s remarks in the interview suggested that Medvedev, halfway through his term, may still be treated as a junior partner.

Putin described his conversations with Medvedev in which Putin used a familiar form of address in the Russian language, while Medvedev employed the more deferential version of the word ‘you’ when speaking to him, he said.

Writing by Gleb Bryanski, Editing by Mark Trevelyan