MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he did not want Russia to return to the practice of the late Soviet era to have lifelong rulers who died in office without an appropriate succession strategy.
His comments, which he addressed to World War II veterans in St. Petersburg, came days after he revealed a major upheaval in the political system that led to Dmitry Medvedev's resignation as Prime Minister with his government.
Putin surprisingly elected Mikhail Mishustin, the inconspicuous head of the country's tax service, as the country's next prime minister. The Russians are now waiting to know which ministers will keep their work in a new government.
Putin's changes to change the constitution to create new centers of power outside of the presidency largely gave the 67-year-old a chance to get a grip on his power after he left the presidency in 2024. He has dominated Russia politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades.
Critics accuse Putin, a former KGB officer, of remaining in some capacity after his term ends. They suspect that he wants to continue to exercise power over the largest nation in the world, which is also one of the two leading nuclear powers.
In his comments on Saturday, Putin, who has already said that he wants to limit future presidents to two terms, even though he has just completed his fourth term, rejected the idea of a lifelong Russian president.
When asked by a war veteran on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad, whether it was time to lift the term limits for presidents as a whole, Putin said: "Understand the (presidential) terms for remaining in power I am concerned that many people are concerned about social, state, domestic and external stability.
"But it would be very worrying to go back to the situation we had in the mid-1980s, when the heads of state stayed in power until the end of their days and resigned without providing the necessary conditions for a change of power. So thanks , but I think it would be better not to go back to that situation. "
The late Soviet period was marked by a number of older leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, all of whom died in office and caused a mess of others to seize power.
Putin's comments may reinforce the idea that he wants to step out of the presidency in 2024 under the current constitution, but critics who think he'll find a way to continue to influence behind the scenes are likely to be prevented from doing any other expanded role ,