September 14, 2007 / 4:17 PM / 12 years ago

Putin does not rule out coming back as president

MOSCOW (Reuters) - In a meeting on Friday Vladimir Putin did not rule out returning to the presidency after his successor steps down in 2012, a foreign analyst taking part in the meeting said.

Putin held talks with foreign academics and leading journalists as part of the annual Valdai discussion club in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

Ariel Cohen, senior researcher at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, told Reuters Putin was asked whether he would consider resuming the presidency.

“He did not rule this out. He said it depends, he said he cares about the stability of Russia,” Cohen said by telephone from Sochi.

“He did not rule out he would try and return to the presidency.”

Putin is to step down next year after his second four-year term expires. Russia’s constitution allows heads of state to hold only two consecutive terms.

Earlier on Friday Putin said newly-appointed prime minister Viktor Zubkov might be a contender for next head of state if he performs well in his job.

Putin puzzled analysts by naming the political unknown Zubkov, a financial regulator turning 66 on Saturday, to be head of government. Observers had expected the job to go to one of the heavyweights jockeying for months to succeed Putin.

But Zubkov’s appointment sparked speculation he would be a low-key caretaker president, under whom Putin would retain political influence — later making a return to the Kremlin.

Putin “did not indicate that he wants to weaken the next president in order to ensure his comeback,” Cohen said. “He also said he would continue to influence Russia’s political life. Mr. Putin is not planning to disappear into the fog.”

Cohen said Putin had told the academics that in order to ensure stability Russia should have a strong presidential system. “He said ... Russia needs to continue the policies that he laid the foundation for.”

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