Combative Putin drops fresh hint over plans to stand for third term as President

Prime Minister insists another stint would not harm Russian constitution. Mary Dejevsky reports from Sochi

Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, yesterday delivered the strongest hint yet that he wants to stand for his old job as president in 2012.

Mr Putin has previously said that he had not reached a decision but yesterday refused to rule out another term, and drew comparisons between himself and Franklin D Roosevelt, the only American president elected to serve for more than two terms in the White House.

Asked if another term in the Kremlin would damage the Russian political system, he said: "US President Roosevelt was voted in four times in a row because this did not contradict the American constitution."

Nevertheless, he stressed that he and the current President, Dmitry Medvedev, would concentrate on their respective jobs for now and do nothing that would violate the Russian constitution. Mr Putin had said in a recent interview that both men would meet and discuss which of the two might stand for the presidency closer to the time. But yesterday he was more concerned to stress the legality of anything that would be decided.

Mr Putin was prevented from standing in 2008 because the Russian constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two consecutive terms, but he would be free to run in 2012. The four-year term is being extended to six years, so whoever wins in 2012 has the possibility of serving until 2024.

Mr Putin, whose forces went to war with Georgia in 2008, also held out the possibility, if not of a rapprochement, but at least of a solution to the current stand-off with Georgia over two breakaway regions because "Georgia was the dominant power in the region".

But his most colourful remarks were about the leadership of his own country. "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," he said. "In Russia no one, including Medvedev, will do anything that would harm the constitution or the rule of law."

Mr Putin was speaking at his annual question-and-answer session with the Valdai Club of international Russian specialists and journalists over dinner at a luxury guesthouse in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The Prime Minister, who is also taking overall responsibility for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, uses every opportunity to promote the city. This was the third year that participants had been flown down to Sochi to meet him.

Asked about Russia's tendency to concentrate power in one individual, Mr Putin said: "That's why I made sure that all power was not concentrated in one individual" – in other words why the post of prime minister and president coexist. "Presidential power is huge, and Medvedev exercises it properly and carefully," he said.

Mr Putin took an enormous variety of questions, about foreign and domestic policy, and the state of Russia and its future prospects. To a question about whether Lenin's embalmed body might be moved from the mausoleum on Red Square in time for the centenary of the 1917 Revolution, Mr Putin flashed back: "There's a statue of Cromwell in London, isn't there? Who do you think was more cruel? Cromwell or Stalin?"

He added to his routine denials of any split or rivalry between himself and Mr Medvedev, repeatedly complimenting Mr Medvedev's performance as President, but he also spoke with obvious warmth about how they had known each other for 20 years and took much the same political approach. He suggested that there was much more room for tension in the British Coalition Government, where the partners came from different parties.

On Georgia, Mr Putin was unusually restrained, never mentioning the exuberant Georgian leader, Mikael Saakashvili, (whom he is known to detest) by name, and stressing that talks should be held between the two enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Georgian government in Tbilisi. He made no claim that Russia should be a party to such talks. He said he would like the question of the legitimacy of the enclaves as independent states to be considered by the same international authorities who had pronounced – positively – on the independence of Kosovo.

Mr Putin also said that Russia has nothing to fear from China and that worries about millions of Chinese some day occupying vast swathes of Russian territory in the Far East are overblown. China and Russia say their trade and political relations are better than ever, though senior Russian officials are privately concerned about an increasingly assertive China along Moscow's vast and largely empty south-eastern border.

"There is no threat on the side of China. We have been neighbours for hundreds of years. We know how to respect each other," Mr Putin said.

"China does not have to populate the Far East to get what it needs – natural resources. We deliver oil and gas. There are huge coal reserves near the Chinese border. China does not want to aggravate the situation with us."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas