''Strategic post'' for Putin in the United Russia party : Reports

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Moscow, April 13 (UNI) The ruling United Russia party is preparing amendments in its charter to allow outgoing President Vladimir Putin to take one of the top posts in the party leadership without being a member.

President Putin has not applied for membership so far, but the party is expecting him to take one of the top posts, Russian daily Vedomosti reported.

Mr Putin is expected to be approved as Prime Minister by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, on May 8 following the swearing in of the President-elect Dmitry Medvedev on May 7.

He agreed to top the United Russia party's election list at the October congress and 64.3 per cent voted as a result. Observers were then unanimous that he was heading for the Prime Minister's post and was assuring himself parliamentary support.

However, president-elect Medvedev has no plans to join the party, a source in his team told the paper, although he supports the ideology of the United Russia.

Sources in the Kremlin and in United Russia told Vedomosti that the party in power was working on amendments to its charter which would change its governance structure and create the post of an off-party leader.

''The idea of national leader will therefore be formalised,'' the party source said.

Garry Minkh, head of the Russian government's legal department, is helping United Russia amend the charter, the source said.

Sources at United Russia said they did not believe any management functions would be redistributed between the effective party leaders, adding Mr Putin does not need any specific executive powers in the party, but they are preparing a strategic post for him.

United Russia has a managing body, the Supreme Council, co-chaired by representatives who are not required to become members.

It includes Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiyev, and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu.

''The Council will probably be enlarged, given additional powers and Mr Putin will head it,'' a source in the Kremlin executive office suggested.

''Mr Putin is trying to turn United Russia into his own political resource and preserve the party as a key political force. This will be especially important after the new President assumes office,'' political analyst Rostislav Turovsky said.

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