London, Nov 7 : Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could reclaim presidency by making incumbent Dmitry Medvedev to step down next year, senior government sources have said.
The Kremlin dropped clear hints that Putin plans a swift return and Medvedev is first expected to usher through constitutional changes that would allow Putin to return to his old job for 12 more years, Russian paper Vedomosti quoted senior government sources, as saying.
Vedomosti's sources claimed that Vladislav Surkov, a prominent state official who has long been regarded as the Kremlin's most adept strategist, was managing the transition project.
Analysts said that the report bore all the signs of a deliberate Kremlin leak designed to prepare the Russian public for Putin's return, The Telegraph reported.
Commentators suggested that the story represented the unofficial beginning of a campaign to see Putin serve a third term, a move that would undoubtedly cause dismay in the West.
The first hint that a power grab was underway came on Wednesday when Medvedev used his first State of the Nation address to call for presidential terms to be extended.
Under the current Russian Constitution, the president is allowed to serve for two consecutive four-year terms. Medvedev suggested that each term be extended to six years.
The proposal, while not unexpected, marks a watershed in Russian politics. If accepted by the country's parliament, it would mark the first amendment to the Russian constitution since it was drafted in 1993, the paper said.
Forced by the constitution to stand down as president in May after serving eight years in power, Putin immediately became Russia's most powerful Prime Minister since the post was first established.
Several commentators predicted last year that Medvedev would be used as a cipher to change the constitution and make unpopular reforms before being asked to resign to make way for Putin, whose reputation would remain unblemished.