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Putin backs longer Kremlin term for his heirs

Vladimir Putin, due to step down as Russian president next year, backs the idea of allowing his successors to serve longer terms in the Kremlin.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2007 14:18 IST

Vladimir Putin, due to step down as Russian president next year, backs the idea of allowing his successors to serve longer terms in the Kremlin but insists their stay should not be open-ended.

In an interview with reporters from Western media, he repeated he would remain active after his term in power ends in May 2008, but declined to say what his role might be.

"Sergei Mironov, the head of our upper house of parliament, used to say that Russia should perhaps have (the presidential term) of five or even seven years," Putin said in an interview, script of which was posted on the presidential Web site www.kremlin ru on Monday.

"I am not speaking now about the length of stay -- it could be five or seven years, but four years is certainly too short a term," he told reporters from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations. "But I think the term should still be limited."

Seven years of strong economic growth and national revival have made Putin very popular among Russians. Opponents have criticised his style of government, which has strongly centralized power, for lacking effective checks and balances.

Many politicians in Russia and foreign investors have expressed worries that Putin's departure after serving the two four-year terms currently allowed by the constitution could destabilize the country.

Several of Putin's allies, including Mironov, have proposed amending the constitution to allow him to stay in power for at least one more term or changing the term of the presidential stay before he goes to allow him more time.

Putin made clear he was not planning to stay on as president beyond next year.

Asked by a reporter whether an ex-president could be a new Russian leader he said:
"We had so far only one Russian President -- Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, who died 40 days ago. We have no other ex-presidents and my term is ending. I do not understand what you are talking about."

Putin's allies have also suggested that after leaving the Kremlin job to a successor, to be elected next March, Putin would remain an informal national leader similar to the father of Chinese reforms, Deng Xiaoping.

Another suggestion made by some analysts was that Putin could maintain effective leverage by taking over one of Russia's powerful state corporations like gas monopoly Gazprom

Putin told the Western reporters that his future plans would depend on the political situation in Russia over the next year.

"I will certainly work but I cannot say for now where and in what capacity," he said. "I have certain ideas, but it is too early to speak of them."

"Let's wait and see," he added. "Many things will depend on how the political process develops in Russia at the end of this year and at the start of the next year. There are different options."