Putin accepts ruling party leadership
Outgoing President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday agreed to head the ruling United Russia party which dominates the political scene in the former Communist state, consolidating his grip on power before he leaves the Kremlin and becomes Prime Minister next month.
"I accept with gratitude the invitation to lead the party and thereby agree to assume additional responsibilities," Putin said addressing the delegates at the IX Congress of the United Russia (UR).
The 55-year-old former KGB officer, who will be quitting as President after eight years on May 7, also announced that he has accepted President-elect Dmitry Medvedev's invitation to become his prime minister.
His decision to accept the top party post came after he was unanimously elected the Chairman of the United Russia with sweeping powers to purge the ruling group, a major step towards reconfiguration of the state power.
Earlier yesterday, the two-day IX Congress of the United Russia, attended by 600-odd delegates, created the post of Party Chairman for Putin.
Putin, who arrived at the Congress venue in Gostiny Dvor - a 19th century mall across the Red Square facing the Kremlin - along with his successor Medvedev, however, urged the delegates to suspend his appointment as party Chairman till May 7, when he will hand over charge to new President.
He also urged the current chairperson of the supreme council of UR, Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, to continue to look after day-to-day functioning of the party.