Putin celebrates last birthday as President in Kremlin

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Moscow, Oct 7 (UNI) Russian President Vladimir Putin today celebrated in the Kremlin his 55th birthday, for the eighth and last time in his capacity as President of the country.

He is expected to step down after the presidential election on March 2, after two consecutive terms. According to the constitution, he cannot run for the third consecutive term.

''You know, as a rule I do not give any parties but this year is an exception. With my presidential term expiring and because I almost have a jubilee anniversary, I have invited the permanent members of the Russian Security Council and the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces, including the commanders of military districts and branches of troops, to come to the Kremlin today,'' he told reporters.

During the last eight years in office, Putin never took a day off on October 7, irrespective of on which day of the week it fell.

He marked his 50th birthday at the CIS summit in Chisinau, the capital of former Soviet republic of Moldova. In 2000, 2003 and 2005, he held meetings in St Petersburg, his native town.

''When I do not have work, I get back to my work,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying.

''I do not do it for the PR effects, it is simply interesting.

The more you do, the more you realise that there is much more to be done,'' he pointed out.

On the eve of his 55th birthday, Putin decided to try himself in another new capacity. He will head the United Russia party list in parliamentary elections on December 2.

So far, Putin has not announced who will be his successor in March. Two Russian First Deputy Prime Ministers, Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, are front-runners for the presidential race.

With popularity rating around 70 per cent, Putin's attitude to his own personality cult is negative.

''I would ask you not to write books or cast busts,'' Putin told journalists.

UNI

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