President Vladimir Putin nominated close political ally Dmitry Medvedev as his party's presidential candidate on Monday and said he was ready to serve as prime minister in a Medvedev administration.
"If Russian citizens express their confidence in Dmitry Medvedev and elect him as the country's president, I will be ready to head the government," Putin told a congress of his United Russia party held near Moscow's Red Square.
"(We) shouldn't be ashamed or afraid of transferring the key powers of the country, the destiny of Russia to the hands of such a man," he added.
Putin signalled Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister and chairman of state gas giant Gazprom, last week as his chosen successor for next March's presidential elections. The constitution forbids Putin from seeking a third term.
Analysts said the choice of a loyal longtime colleague with no political base of his own signalled Putin's desire to keep a grip on power after leaving the Kremlin next May.
Putin walked into the congress hall side by side with Medvedev to applause from the serried ranks of dark-suited delegates.
In a brief speech, Putin said there was no intention to change the balance of power between the president and the prime minister. Russia's constitution grants most power to the president, who appoints the prime minister and can fire him.
Putin praised Medvedev as a man whose "main principles in life are the interests of its government and its citizens."
In a further sign of Putin's intention to keep a grip on power next year, Russian media reported that Putin could send the Kremlin chief of staff to run Medvedev's election campaign.
The Vedomosti newspaper reported that Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin and possibly the main Kremlin political strategist, Vladislav Surkov, would head Medvedev's campaign.
"For the first time a presidential candidate's campaign staff will be headed by the Kremlin chief of staff," Vedomosti wrote.
The Kremlin did not comment on Vedomosti's report. In the past, successful heads of the election campaign have gone on to become chief of the Kremlin staff.
This happened with Anatoly Chubais, who is the head of state-controlled electricity utility UES. He headed President Boris Yeltsin's re-election campaign in 1996. Medvedev led Putin's election campaign in 2000.