Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has very much left the door open to a second shot at becoming president. He appeared on a live phone-in programme on state television, fielding questions from the audience and people around the country.
“Are you going to run for the presidency in 2012?”, asked one member of the invited audience. “Are you?” Putin replied with a smile. “I will think about it”, he went on, adding that it would depend on the economic and social situation nearer the time. Many Russians expect the prime minister to return to the Kremlin. He is seen very much as the power behind the throne. It was almost two hours into the session before he mentioned President Medvedev by name. The programme was billed as “A Conversation with Vladimir Putin: the Sequel”. It became an annual event during his presidency. The topics ranged from football to Stalin’s legacy. Putin praised him over the economy and World War II, but condemned the repression which destroyed millions of lives. Factory workers called to ask about their jobs. The situation in one-industry towns is under control, said the prime minister. Others were concerned about living standards. Putin said the economy had grown recently and predicted that things would get better. The TV programme has been described as stage-managed. The prime minister’s performance is unlikely to have done his high popularity ratings any harm.