Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, indicated on Sunday that the handling of the economic crisis would play a major role in determining whether he or President Dmitry Medvedev ran for the top Kremlin post in 2012.
Putin, who stepped down as president last May to become prime minister under Medvedev, told Japanese media that having two men running Russia in tandem helped ensure stability.
There has been speculation the two leaders could be drifting apart as the grind of steering Russia through the economic crisis took its toll.
“I have very good relations with President Medvedev. Each one of us does our work. We each have our niches. But of course at this level questions frequently arise that cross over,” Putin said in the interview, which was published on Sunday.
When Putin was asked how he would react if Medvedev chose to run in a 2012 presidential election, the former KGB spy said much depended on how well the authorities dealt with the crisis.
“We are living through a world financial and economic crisis. The authorities in every country are having to deal with very difficult questions which we must resolve, we must help people through this difficult time,” Putin said.
“Depending on the effectiveness of our work, President Medvedev and I will take decisions about what to do in the future, he and I,” Putin said. Putin did not make clear whether he intended to run in 2012.
“I have known him (Medvedev) for a very long time and I know that he is very upright and that he will look at his political future based on the interests of the country and the results of our joint work. Time will tell,” Putin said.
Medvedev pushed through constitutional changes last year which increase future presidential terms to six years from four. Many observers have speculated Putin could return to rule Russia for another 12 years.
Russia’s economy will contract this year for the first time since the 1998 crisis after a decade-long boom.
Medvedev has criticised the government several times for its handling of the crisis, though he has stopped short of criticizing Putin directly.
When asked about the criticism, Putin said he was often upset himself with some ministries.
“A critical opinion of the government’s actions is absolutely normal. I myself am not always happy with what certain ministries and (government) agencies do,” Putin said.