Russia's Putin says to back single successor
MOSCOW, May 13: Vladimir Putin today said he would support the candidacy of a single successor to the Russian presidency and vowed to ensure a smooth handover of power when he steps down in 2008.
Putin, who was himself made acting head of state by then-president Boris Yeltsin to ensure his election, has long rejected suggestions he should change the constitution and stand for a third term.
The identity of his successor has become the country's hottest political topic. He gave no clues as to whom he would support on today, saying that was a question for the people, but made clear he expected a role in the choice.
''I think I would be right to express my point of view on one candidacy or another, and I will do this,'' Putin told reporters in the Black Sea town of Sochi, where he has an official residence, agencies reported.
''I have certain ideas about how to set up the situation in the country in this period of time so as not to destabilise it, so as not to scare the people and business.'' Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are widely seen as frontrunners to be picked by the Kremlin to follow Putin.
The Kremlin's control over the media and levers of power ensure almost certain success for its choice.
''Everyone is concerned about stability and are wondering what will happen after 2008,'' Putin said.
''I can not just say 'I've done my job' and you sort the rest out yourselves. To the last minute of my holding the presidency, I will responsibly do my duty,'' Putin was quoted as saying.
Since the fall of communism in 1991, Russian elections have been criticised by international monitors, who say the Kremlin's lasting control over most aspects of national life distorts the democratic process.
Putin, however, insisted that he could not tell the Russian people who to vote for.
''The final choice will come down to the Russian citizen. You can't impose someone. The reaction could be opposite to the one intended,'' he said.
Attempts to rig elections in Ukraine and Georgia led to popular uprisings and the election of pro-Western presidents, something the Kremlin is seen as being keen to avoid.